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Data Amnesty™

Get your lost or stolen data back. No questions asked.
  (+7, -2)
(+7, -2)
  [vote for,

A lost or stolen computer can be replaced with money but all of the data that was in it is not so easy to replace. If your computer has ever been lost or stolen, I think that we could all agree that the situation wouldn't be so bad if we could somehow get back the information that was still in it.

So I propose that we establish a Data Amnesty Program. If you find, steal, or buy "hot" computer merchandise that you don't intend on ever returning, you should be able to show up at your local Data Amnesty repository and download everything in complete confidence. No questions asked. Then if some poor sole can identify some of his missing data, it will be returned to him (for a nominal fee). He will be so happy to be able to recover YEARS of his hard work and he won't feel so bad about the loss or theft. This could also work for cell phones, PDA's and other electronic devices that store important information.

Jscotty, May 08 2008

Stolen briefcase http://mettemamma.b..._03_01_archive.html
Mostly in Finnish but the relevant quote is in English near the bottom of the entry entitled "Isänmaallinen varas". [nineteenthly, May 08 2008]

BBC News: Couple are convicted of fraud after finding lottery ticket http://news.bbc.co....ltshire/8001796.stm
"Amanda Stacey, 34, from Swindon, Wiltshire, reportedly found the prize ticket on the floor of her local Co-op." [zen_tom, Apr 27 2009]

"Using Back to My Mac… to Catch a Thief!" http://www.roughlyd...c-to-catch-a-thief/
This is how to get your data (and laptop) back. [hippo, Apr 27 2009]


       "Hey, I stole your camera, but here, you can have the pictures back!"   

       If someone is inclined to rip our your laptop, etc., in the first place, I fail to see why they wouldn't also want to rip off your data.   

       Sorry, I just don't see thieves being that thoughtful, outside the movies.
DrCurry, May 08 2008

       What makes you think that the laptop thief is going to be socially aware enough to spend his or her time carefully uploading all this information up to an anonymised server?   

       If they thought the data was valuable, they'd be in a more profitable position were they to contact the victim of the crime and negotiate a finder's fee. (Sometimes referred to as blackmail)   

       In other words, were I in the business of laptop or pda acquisition, what would be in it for me to cooperate with this scheme?   

       [edit] What DrCurry said.
zen_tom, May 08 2008

       How about a sleeper programme that can be activated by remote the next time the computer logs on to the internet? This helper virus then uploads your data to a wedsite, hopefully without the thief's knowledge, and then deletes the hard- drive.   

       Or just keep backups...
theleopard, May 08 2008

       personally I think that if you are working on something of such importance that the loss of data would cause you a great set back you should take great precautions to save your work in multiple ways, external hard drive, flash drive, printed documents, upload to a database (ftp posibly)
wuhisn, May 08 2008

       Hmmm... sounds fishy to me.
theleopard, May 08 2008

       There was an incident where someone stole a Civil Service laptop, concluded there were sensitive data on it and returned it to the government anonymously, with the complaint that it should have been made more secure. The unique data are often worth far more than the hardware, and frequently only to the original users. I would back it up but i know many people who don't. Only this morning, my partner thought she'd lost a three year old handout because she hadn't backed it up, but i had, so it was OK.   

       There's no need for a physical location, and the data can be identified. It might even have appropriate email addresses on it. I would say the answer is to archive the data as a single file, upload that file via an anonymised proxy to a server labelled with the date it was stolen and possibly some kind of identifiable string such as the email address, then the victim goes there and, having identified it, downloads the same data using unique information they know to be in the data somewhere, using that as a sort of password, like the "statistically improbable phrases" used by Amazon. For instance, i know that somewhere on my hard drive is the string "zip and the scrunchy", which i'd be prepared to bet is unique, and i didn't have to think about that or look it up.
nineteenthly, May 08 2008

       [IT] - sprat's my problem with the idea as well. [nineteenthly] proscribes a somewhat more elegant execution, but eel have to ensure that the resulting database can't be used for nefarious ends, i.e. bad guys searching for phrases such as "my bank details are", etc. It all presupurpoises a hell of a lot of goodwill on the part of criminal types, which is a trait they're not exactly known for... I don't mean to sound negative by whiting this, as it's a good and well-intentioned idea, but it might not work as planned in the reel world.
lostdog, May 08 2008

       I think the laptop info is too much to ask for, but I've lost some digital cameras at end (Arrrgh) of vacations, that I would love to have gotten the memory cards back.
MisterQED, May 08 2008

       Thieves probably wouldn't bother to do it most of the time, though as the governmental laptop incident shows, they would do so at least occasionally. On the other hand, as they are trying to get something for nothing, they might also not bother to reformat the hard drive, so the recipients of the stolen goods still have the opportunity to do the minimally decent thing, as do the police where there's no identifying information. The database could require only the statistically unlikely bits of data. You would only need a single file, say a personal photo, which had a copy, for it to be possible. Anything which was common, like the string "my bank account", could be excluded, either explicitly or through simple comparison of the different images of drives. It probably wouldn't even consititute very much data, since most of it is held in common by various drives, such as the object code for Windows, Microsoft Office, common MP3s, copies of PDFs found on the internet or whatever.
nineteenthly, May 08 2008

       Generally thieves are not going to be this thoughtful or conscientious about the stolen data if their next stop is going to be the pawn shop, however, this is the one of the aspects that makes my idea truely half-baked. We ought to keep backups of our data (as previously mentioned) but as the imperfect people we are, we seldom do it. From a peace of mind aspect, losing your semi-important data to a hardware failure isn't as bad as someone just walking off with it. If the computer dies, we can try various methods to recover it prior to saying, "Oh well.. you win/lose some.." but when the computer grows legs and walks away, that can be very unnerving.
Jscotty, May 08 2008

       [-] for you, and [+] for [theleopard]. Although I'd skip the remote activation, and just use a windowless background process that does network backups whenever it's online. Then you have regular backups whether or not your machine has been stolen.
BunsenHoneydew, May 21 2008

       //Sorry, I just don't see thieves being that thoughtful, outside the movies.//   

       So if this were a website, where data was uploaded, and it was worldwide, you think that it would have no entries? come on. It is a great idea!!! buns gallore.   

       Sometimes you don't steal something, you just find it, and decide to keep it. There are someones pictures on that camera or laptop you just found. Simply upload the pictures and indicate where and when it was found. Say "thanks" for the camera.   

       I love this idea!
fishboner, Apr 27 2009

       //Sometimes you don't steal something, you just find it, and decide to keep it//   

       Well, that's stealing. I'd say you're obligated to try to find the owner, I certainly have on the occasion I've found valuables. My only proviso is I don't hand in to lost&found type sections, but I do leave a description and my contact details.   

       Get this up and running, then start a similar mob who'll allow thieves to hand in stolen wallets, sans cash, and credit cards if necessary. Just replacing various licences, tickets, membership cards and other bits and bobs in my wallet cost me well over $150 a few years ago, and I've probably doubled the contents since then.
Custardguts, Apr 27 2009

       //somewhere on my hard drive is the string "zip and the scrunchy", which i'd be prepared to bet is unique// - not now it isn't.
hippo, Apr 27 2009

       True. I think you can sometimes find things legitimately. Round here, if not elsewhere, people often abandon IT-related equipment on the street with notes stuck to them asking people to take them. I saw a multi-function device yesterday, and a couple of years ago a Silicon Graphics workstation. I don't think you can equate finding something with significant data on it with nicking it, particularly if it has a Post-It note stuck to it saying "PLEASE TAKE THIS". On the other hand, you may be acquiring data even if the previous owner doesn't realise it, which must be quite common. In such circumstances, there should be a way of giving it back.
nineteenthly, Apr 27 2009


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