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Flickr fumble? User account and 4,000 pictures deleted [Updated -- photos are back]

February 1, 2011 |  7:12 pm

Flickr user Mirco Wilhelm says he lost 4,000 photos -- five years' worth of images -- due to a mistake on the part of a staffer at the popular picture hosting site.

Mirco-2010-BW-600SQ Wilhelm, an IT architect and photographer, wrote about the ordeal in a Tumblr blog post with a title that we can't republish here on the Technology blog.

In the post, he said: "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."

Wilhelm said this brought to mind that he had reported a user account to Flickr that had added him as a contact on Sunday that contained stolen images.

"I checked the email I received from the Flickr staff," Wilhelm wrote in his post. "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."

Flickr, and its parent company, Yahoo, were unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Wilhelm, however, posted a response he said he got from Flickr:

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

About three hours later, Wilhelm added another post to his blog, stating that Flickr had contacted him again and was working to help him out a bit.

Wilhelm said Yahoo e-mailed him with this:

I can definitely get you logged back in to your account.

However, we are taking a look to see if there is anything we can do in this particular case to restore your content.

While we investigate this we need the account to not be touched. As soon as I have any further information, I'll get back to you.

This might be a good reminder to those living in the cloud and not backing up important data, photos, documents and all the other things users store online -- saving important digital files on a portable hard drive, or two, isn't a bad idea.

A shout-out goes to Adrianne Jeffries at The New York Observer, who first reported this Flickr fumble.

[Updated 11:13 p.m.: Yahoo spokesman Jason Khoury sent along this statement to the Technology blog in an e-mail:

Yesterday, Flickr inadvertently deleted a member’s account. Flickr takes user trust very seriously and we, like our users, take great pride in being able to take, post and share photos. Our teams are currently working hard to try to restore the contents of this user's account. We are working on a process that would allow us to easily restore deleted accounts and we plan on rolling this functionality out soon.]

[Updated Wednesday 2:54 p.m.: Mirco Wilhelm, left a comment on this post, notifying the Technology blog and its readers that his Flickr account is restored. Wilhelm said:

Just to sum some things up. My Flickr account has been restored through some magical "we don't have it" recovery procedure. The problem I had with this case was not the loss of my photos on Flickr. I only use Flickr as a community and showcase platform with downscaled versions of my images. What I lost was 5 years of community membership, contact, comments, internal and external links to my photos. This is the part of Flickr that's hard to keep on a local backup and the hardest to recreate.]

[Updated Wednesday 6:05 p.m.: Yahoo spokesman Jason Khoury e-mailed this statement:

Yahoo! is pleased to share that the Flickr team has fully restored a member’s account that was mistakenly deleted yesterday. We regret the human error that led to the mistake and have worked hard to rectify the situation, including reloading the entire photo portfolio and providing the member with 25 years of free Flickr Pro membership. Flickr takes the trust of our members very seriously and we appreciate the patience shown by this member and our community. Flickr will also soon roll out functionality that will allow us to restore deleted accounts more easily in the future.]

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Mirco Wilhelm's Twitter profile picture. Credit: Mirco Wilhelm / Twitter

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