Yahoo accidentally deletes Flickr account with 4,000 pictures

By on February 2, 2011, 2:01 PM
Update: After the story received plenty of coverage around the Web, and in a fortunate turnaround for German photographer Mirco Wilhelm, Flickr has managed to restore his account. The original story is below.

Mirco Wilhelm, a German photographer, has had a Flickr account for five years, with about 4000 pictures in it, many of them directly linked to from various external websites. When he recently tried to login, he found it odd that he was prompted for his password, and then was asked to create a Flickr account. It turns out that Yahoo had deleted his account by mistake.

The confusion apparently occurred after a different user added Wilhelm as a contact. He quickly realized that the user account only contained obviously stolen material, so he reported it. According to an e-mail Wilhelm received, Flickr staff told him that the account would be checked for irregularities. When he asked if they had mistakenly deleted his account instead of the fraudulent one, it turned that his guess was correct.

Flickr apologized and gave him an additional four years of the Pro subscription for free, but the damage was done. Wilhelm argues that Yahoo should have deactivated his account first, then checked again if everything was in order. In this way, he would have been able to point out the issue and would have not lost any of his hard work. Since the whole account was deleted, the pictures and accompanying links were lost, and Flickr cannot reactivate anything more that the account itself.

"In my day job I actually work as an IT Architect," Wilhelm wrote in a post on his Posterous blog. "I do designs on complex infrastructures, delivery processes and related stuff. Going from an active account to a deleted account is pretty much a NO-GO in any enterprise environment, because of these consequences. If you do something wrong you can’t undo it again, without recreating every single setting from scratch. This would be acceptable, if I had a free account. But since I'm a paying customer, I would expect a bit more that a 'Again, I am deeply sorry for this mistake.'"

This is a nightmare story regarding cloud computing. Never, ever rely on a single service. Always create backup. Flickr's apology letter is below:

Hello,

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.

Regards,

Flickr staff





User Comments: 26

Got something to say? Post a comment
TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Holy smokes - LAWSUIT PENDING.

Squuiid said:

Yet another Yawho? fa1l.

Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

And the "Most unlucky man of the week award" goes to.....Mirco Wilhelm!

Poor bugger.

Mizzou Mizzou said:

Assume this means that Yahoo never runs backups, cloud computing at it's finest.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

"Is there anything else I can do?"

Yes, here is a DVD with all my pictures on it, and now you can recreate all the tags, links, and other information. You have a week. Cheers!

princeton princeton said:

Mizzou said:

Assume this means that Yahoo never runs backups, cloud computing at it's finest.

Seriously. If I'm paying for a PRO account I expect PRO safety measures. This would include your service BACKING UP MY STUFF.

Staff
Per Hansson Per Hansson, TS Server Guru, said:

Mizzou said:

Assume this means that Yahoo never runs backups, cloud computing at it's finest.

Usually when working with databases this is not so easy to implement.

I mean sure you have backups, but restoring only one specific users data into several tables can be a difficult process...

Even more so if you have links to these files with unique database ID's

If you want them to match aswell you have yourself a little nightmare

Hence why you do not actually delete anything unless you are really sure of what you are doing, you simply deactivate or hide the information first instead...

Mushroom said:

you would have to establish his pictures were worth anything. Just like if you develop film at walmart or something, if they destroy your film they're only liable for the film and not the actual worth of your pictures.

Vrmithrax Vrmithrax, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I'm sure Yahoo covers it's corporate behind with some kind of protective clause buried deep in the EULA when first activating the account... Still, the tinfoil hat anti-cloud crowds are going to have an absolute field day with this story...

Leeky Leeky said:

Whether it covers itself behind a clause or not makes no odds, the person uploading these pictures should have originals, and backups.

It still makes for a massive inconvenience, but there is no substitute for having backups.

Scshadow said:

Looks like this guys been upped to 25 years free service now... not that it does anything to make up for it. Not that Yahoo will even be guaranteed to be around that long. This guy should sue. He has all his pictures backed up according to his blog, so he should sue for the time it takes to reupload and relink all his photos at his hourly rate.

IAMTHESTIG said:

Uhhh... really? An operation as big as flickr doesn't have a backup strategy? This doesn't add up... sounds fishy.

matrix86 matrix86 said:

Scshadow said:

This guy should sue. He has all his pictures backed up according to his blog, so he should sue for the time it takes to reupload and relink all his photos at his hourly rate.

Yeah, like that'll happen. He can most likely sue for any business lost during this time, but the chances of winning based on "it took me this many hours to re-upload" are very slim.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Uhhh... really? An operation as big as flickr doesn't have a backup strategy? This doesn't add up... sounds fishy.

It would seem not. In a 'round about way, it makes sense that they don't, since "Flickr", is supposed to BE the "backup strategy".

Guest said:

everybody wants to sue. how about taking responsibility for your actions. he should have had his own backups. yahoo never said it would protect his work 100%, that was only assumed. the person who had the example of the film at walmart is correct. if they lose your film, all you get is free film. NOT the worth of the film, or the time it took to take the pictures.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

everybody wants to sue. how about taking responsibility for your actions. he should have had his own backups. yahoo never said it would protect his work 100%, that was only assumed. the person who had the example of the film at walmart is correct. if they lose your film, all you get is free film. NOT the worth of the film, or the time it took to take the pictures.
Not true, I don't want to sue Yahoo, or upload my pictures to Flickr. This is why, (IMHO), on the eight day, God created 1 terrabyte hard drives.

Just thought I'd add this, in the condition that Walmart returns your film, it would be more merciful if they did lose it.

aj_the_kidd said:

Guest said:

everybody wants to sue. how about taking responsibility for your actions. he should have had his own backups. yahoo never said it would protect his work 100%, that was only assumed. the person who had the example of the film at walmart is correct. if they lose your film, all you get is free film. NOT the worth of the film, or the time it took to take the pictures.

Based on a post by a previous poster he does have backups, problem is if you read the article, is that allot of his pictures had direct links to external sites. Im guessing since he is part time photograher those links to external sites help bring in business, of which now are gone. But your right responsibility should be taken, yahoo screwed up and they should help him re-create the links

mizkitty said:

As an IT slave myself...always disable the account first...don't simply delete it.

Any serious photographer would also have his own backups instead of relying on a 3rd party service in the "cloud". He obviously had to edit the pix before he uploaded them...and he didn't do that on his camera.

Guest said:

its human error on flickrs end.

at least the employee should be fired, if you ask me.

and flickr should come up with something better than a $100 wioth of compensation.

because again, its not some system bug or whatever. a flickr employee made the mistake.

Huspower said:

We just hope it will never happen to our yahoo emails or any other services from Yahoo.

Besides, if this a payable product then what about the free? I guess they will not even send you a message.

Guest said:

I wonder who the lucky chap was to press the big "DELETE" button on his account.

Arris Arris said:

Hide the data/Remove access before deleting such a large amount of data. No real excuse for such a horrendous error. If I was dealing with 2 accounts with the same details I would have at least made sure the real user could still use his account before completely eradicating his account and 4000+ photographs. But yeah, to store everything on flickr with no local backup isn't too bright either.

Guest said:

I think he is Swiss and lives in Zurich so he is not an German.

Guest said:

Nothing is ever deleted..It's just too much work and would cost them more money than what any 1 person is worth to them. When it's going to cost them more money on a lawyer then he will get his files back.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

We just hope it will never happen to our yahoo emails or any other services from Yahoo.

Besides, if this a payable product then what about the free? I guess they will not even send you a message.

I believe a free Flickr account, is limited to 200 images. (At least those were the terms, last time I was there). I don't know what other perks come with a pro sign up,

Yahoo finally managed to hook me back up with a group I belonged to a couple of years ago. Took quite a while, it did. (The link was broken when

Verizon accidentally shut off my internet, in a, "freak renewal accident).

I do believe we should link this thread to the newer one; http://www.techspot.com/vb/topic160639.html

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