Did Flickr "Accidentally" Delete Mirco Wilhelm's Account?

In a blog post entitled “You have to be f****ing kidding Yahoo” Flickr user Mirco Wilhelm is claiming that Flickr “accidentally” deleted his own account when he reported another user for copyright violation. From Wilhelm:

Today I was a bit surprised when trying to log into my Flickr account. It didn’t remember I was logged in, but asked me for my password, knowing who I am. Then I was asked to “create” a Flickr account.

Strange, because I already had an account … for the last 5 years with about 4000 pictures in it!

The it came to me. I did report on a user account that had added me as a contact on sunday only containing obviously stolen material and complaints about having an older deleted account with similar content.

I checked the email I received from the Flickr staff. It only stated, that the account will be checked for irregulations, so I asked if they, by mistake had deleted my account.

Well, it turned out, they actually had.

Wilhelm goes on to state that he actually got an apology note back from Flickr staff for nuking the wrong account.


Unfortunately, I have mixed up the accounts and accidentally deleted yours. I am terribly sorry for this grave error and hope that this mistake can be reconciled. Here is what I can do from here:

I can restore your account, although we will not be able to retrieve your photos. I know that there is a lot of history on your account–again, please accept my apology for my negligence. Once I restore your account, I will add four years of free Pro to make up for my error.

Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do.
Again, I am deeply sorry for this mistake.


Flickr staff

Unfortunately if you look at Wilhelm’s Flickr account, all of the photos in fact now do appear to be deleted. You can see the Google cache copy of what Wilhelm’s account used to look like (including over 3,400 photos) here for the time being.

If Wilhelm’s claims are true, this is yet another troubling example of bad account deletions at Flickr. It’s terrible to think that as a user I could put thousands of hours into my Flickrstream and have it all disappear one day because a flickr staffer did an oppsie. Not backing up our data upon deletion is irresponsible on Yahoo’s part. It would be very easy for Yahoo to simply code accounts as private for one week prior to permanent deletion in order to avoid these sorts of unfortunate mistakes. Giving someone 4 years of free Flickr Pro does not make up for the destruction of over 3,400 photos and it’s irresponsible for Yahoo to continue operating Flickr in this manner.

I wonder if the Flickr staffer who nuked Mirco’s account had any of those Blake Irving Flickr margaritas prior to pressing the nuke button and if so how many?

Thanks for the heads up Nils!

Update: Wilhelm confirms his account deletion in the comments and adds, “there where close to 4000 photos in there at total, not all of them public, but still it will be a lot of work to rebuild all the web content that used these picture (like my own blogs).”

Update #2: NY Observer picks up the story here.

Update #3: On digg here and here. If you think that Flickr needs to build in a way to restore our accounts over bad deletions vote up there.

Update #4: Flickr Staffer Zack Sheppard says a new feature is coming to Flickr to enable them to restore deleted accounts. It’s about f***ing time. Hopefully they also implement a sane policy of allowing users to take self corrective action regarding Flickr problems with accounts in the future in lieu of permanent deletion.

From Zack:

“We’ve been working on the ability to restore accounts for a while and hope to have it completed early this year.

We have been in contact with Mirco and may be able to restore his account. The partial work that has been done so far may make it possible to retrieve the account. It’s only a maybe but we want to try and do everything we can to rectify this mistake.

Just as people have stated above, we also believe this is an important feature to have in place for cases like this when there was an error. As many of you know we usually do not discuss features before they are released but because of the community concern we wanted to let you know in this case. “

Flickr also has reached out with similar statements to both the L.A. Times and NY Observer.

Update #5: The story is also now on TechCrunch here and PetaPixel here.

It’s worth noting that a strong push was made for an undo delete function back in August of 2009. At that point though Flickr just locked the thread where people were complaining and dismissed it saying that they were not working on such a feature. Why does it take a major Yahoo/Flickr PR Blunder to get them to finally give a damn?

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