Flickr recently ran into a hailstorm of negative publicity when a careless employee accidentally deleted a user’s account that had cached five years’ worth of photos, totaling almost 4,000 images, almost all of which were linked to a number of external websites and blogs. Initially the photo-storing and -sharing site regretfully informed the user that there was nothing that could be done to restore the images, though they would issue 4 years of free Flickr Pro service and apologize profusely via email.
It came as something of a shock to other Flickr users as well as sympathizing observers that there seriously weren’t any failsafe mechanisms in place to prevent something so final and arbitrary from happening in the first place. Yahoo!, Flickr’s owner, heard the uproar, of course, and answered the backlash by “working hard to try to restore the contents of [the user’s] account” and by “actively working on a process that will allow us to easily restore deleted accounts and will roll this functionality out soon.”
The story ended happily when Yahoo! announced that the Flickr team was able to fully restore the member’s account, intact with the original photo portfolio, and issued 25 free years of Flickr pro membership. Now that Flickr has done it once, hopefully they can figure out a less frantic way to restore accounts in the future.
The rest of us, especially Flickr-like sites can learn to circumvent similar mishaps and avoid the backlash with foolproof backups and procedures.