Flickr sends five years' photos down the drain

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Flickr has admitted accidentally deleting a photo-blogger's account, wiping out his 4,000 photos at a stroke.

While Mirco Wilhelm of Switzerland has backup copies of the pictures themselves elsewhere, he's lost tags, captions and the like. And his collection had been widely linked - including from the Flickr and Yahoo blogs - links which now lead nowhere.

Wilhelm says the move seems to be connected to a report he made to Flickr a few days earlier about another user who was displaying material that was clearly stolen. But instead of deleting the fraudulent account, the company wiped Wilhelm's instead.

Flickr has promised to reinstate the five-year-old account, and offered four years - later increased to 25 - of free Pro as an apology.

"It is kind of nice, getting an additional four years of service subscription for free… but I already received free Pro subscriptions for the next year just by taking part in some events and competitions," says Wilhelm.

"So how can this really compensate losing close to 4,000 'linked' pictures from my web albums? I have to recreate most of these links manually, which will take weeks, if not months of my free time! Not to mention, external websites that had linked these images."

The mistake highlights the risks of storing valuable information in the cloud - unless it's properly handled. And, as Wilhelm points out, the disaster could have been averted had Flickr double-checked before pulling the plug.

"Going from an active account to a deleted account is pretty much a no-go in any enterprise environment, because of these consequences," he says. "If you do something wrong your can’t undo it again, without recreating every single setting from scratch."

Flickr now says that it's working on a process that would allow accidentally-deleted accounts to be reinstated.

"Our teams are in touch with the member and are currently working hard to try to restore the contents of his account. In addition, we are providing the member with 25 years of free Flickr Pro membership," says the company in a statement.  "We are also actively working on a process that will allow us to easily restore deleted accounts and will roll this functionality out soon."