A Flickr user is complaining loudly that the photo service allowed 3,000+ of his photos to be deleted by a hacker with no warning. Now they're supposedly gone, forever. When will Flickr start making backups?
Something like this has happened before. The last time we checked in with the Yahoo-owned site, it had irreversibly deleted 1,200 of a paying user's photos for posting excessive comments on the White House Flickr stream. To console the user, Flickr offered a $25 gift card, but that was it; Yahoo customer service VP Heather Champ told the user it was impossible to retrieve old photos, implying the site had no backups.
Now comes Morgan Tepsic, a photographer and soon-to-be art student in Taipei, Taiwan who said he spent "thousands of dollars" developing the photos in his paid Flickr account. A hacker — sounds like an old flame, perhaps — somehow joined a hotmail account to his Flickr account, then nuked his photos. Tepsic aruges, persuasively, that Flickr should have done more to protect his account, at the very least emailing him to confirm the Hotmail account or at least the account termination. Instead, he says he woke up to these three emails:
1. [redacted]@hotmail.com has been added to your account!
2. Your password has been changed!
3. Your account has been terminated!
Flickr support was a nightmare; at one point Tepsic was told Flickr had no phones, an assertion quickly disproved using Flickr itself (in a photo captioned "Too many phones... at Flickr HQ"). Last weekend we sent Yahoo questions about Tepsic's case and more generally about its backup procedures. Monday a Yahoo spokesperson said the company was looking into our query; we still haven't heard back.
If the struggling internet company wants to retain its paying Flickr customers, and compete with photo-saturated Facebook, it should be more careful with customer data. And Flickr users, of course, should emphatically back up their stuff. Keeping data in "the cloud" isn't all its cracked up to be.
(Pic: Taken at Flickr HQ, by Daniel Catt)