T-Mobile USA, the nation's fourth largest cell phone carrier, appears to be in the midst of a public-relations disaster after a computer glitch may have permanently erased all of the personal data stored on some of its Sidekick devices, including users' contacts, photos and other information.
The snafu, reported by the Wall Street Journal and other news outlets, is a significant black eye for all of those involved, including the carrier that supplies service for the device (T-Mobile) and the company that handles the Sidekick's online storage function (Microsoft, via its acquisition last year of Sidekick maker Danger).
According to reports yesterday, Sidekick users have battled connectivity problems for more than a week. Though Microsoft and T-Mobile said they fixed the problem, a message posted Saturday on the operator's website warns that Sidekick personal content that wasn't stored locally on the subscriber's device has "almost certainly" been lost due to server malfunction. According to the Wall Street Journal, Sidekick customers who reset their devices by removing the battery or draining it are the most at risk of losing their personal data. Microsoft is investigating whether it can recover some personal data from its servers for consumers who reset their Sidekicks, according to the WSJ.
The issue centers on the Sidekick's use of cloud computing, a function that essentially stores information on the Internet in case a device is lost or stolen. Interestingly, T-Mobile and Microsoft are not the first to suffer cloud-based glitches; Nokia earlier this year destroyed three weeks of users' data due to a problem with its cloud-based Ovi contacts database. Further, in 2005 socialite Paris Hilton's own Sidekick was hacked and its contents were posted on the Internet.
Representatives from T-Mobile and Microsoft did not immediately provide an update on the situation this morning, including how many of the more than one million Sidekick owners lost their data. However, all of T-Mobile's Sidekick devices are listed as "temporarily out of stock" on the carrier's website.
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