March 24, 2009

Found: Flash Drive. What should I do?



     As my college friend Michael stood in my living room, preparing to leave following his first visit to my home after fifteen years, he pulled a blue flash drive from his pocket.
     “I found it in a parking lot,” he claimed about the electronic gadget that is so small it is easier to lose than to keep. Such a thing can slip out of a brief case, get misplaced in a myriad of paper piles, or become hidden in some place as obscure as the junk drawer. It can also be easily stolen. Or, perhaps like the child’s perennial excuse for not doing homework, the dog could eat it.
     Michael had been visiting our college town, and as he left his father’s home, he noticed the gadget laying in the parking lot near his car. He picked it up, and not knowing what else to do with it, he stuck it in his pocket.
(click to view photo)
     Since Michael is, as he claims, “not computer savvy,” I offered to do something with it. But what?
     There are few options when one holds a lost flash drive in their hands. It can be tossed—but then we could be disposing of someone’s only copy of valuable information. I know how precious a flash drive is. I work off of mine and back the information up on two computers. However, I neglect to do this regularly, so if I lose it, I could lose my latest information. As a writer, this could be disastrous. In addition, having some unknown person able to access all my information is frightening. I tend to be scrupulous in keeping track of this flash drive, but carelessness and accidents do occur. Thus, I felt for the person who lost this blue flash drive. No way could I toss it into the garbage to be lost forever to the owner.
     I could become frozen with inaction and just stick it in the back of my desk. It would be a blip in my clutter, and would serve no purpose. And when I kick the bucket and push up blueberries, what will the person who cleans out my desk do with it? Probably pitch it into the trash.
     A third option was to stick it into the computer in an attempt to locate information on the owner. But what if there was a bug on the flash drive that would affect our computer? It was risky.
     This option also created the problem of discovering information that was none of my business. However, this seemed to be the best option. Thus, my husband Monte did the dastardly deed. He stuck it in the USM port of his computer, even though the USB input seemed damaged and he didn’t think it would work. It did, and we found information on drug and alcohol trainings at a city hospital, and a folder with many word documents identified with person’s names. Feeling guilty, I suggested Monte open several. The name of one counselor came up repeatedly.
     Monte moved on, opening non-client folders, until he discovered the counselor’s name with a phone number on a document. We wrote it down and closed the flash drive, removing it from his computer.
     Monday morning I called the number. A message with the name matching that on the flash drive answered, stating that I should leave a message. I left my name, where I was calling from and the information that I might have something he had lost. When I hung up I told Monte that the counselor probably would not respond, since my message sounded like a prank or spam call.
    Within an hour, however, the phone rang. I told Steve (name changed for his protection) that I had a flash drive, and he hesitated.
     “Is it blue?” he asked, after confirming that he worked for a drug and alcohol center located in the building that Michael had visited.
     I felt I had enough evidence, so I confirmed it.
     “Wait a minute,” he said.
     He returned to the phone. “It isn’t in my case. I didn’t even know it was missing.” I explained how someone in the tiny community of Laurel Mountain Borough, Pennsylvania, had acquired his flash drive.
     I assured him that we had only searched his flash drive for identifying information. I also stated that as a counselor, I really didn’t need to buy more trouble by examining someone else’s files. Thus, the confidentiality of his files was not compromised.
     When I told him that I wasn’t certain that he would return my phone call that sounded like spam, he said that he thought someone was calling to tell him about getting money from European debts, and he would have to pay a lot of money to get it. We shared a laugh.
     We agreed that I should snail mail him the flash drive, and that he should contact phone me if it hadn’t arrived within the week. When I mailed it, I included my email address.
     Steve kindly offered to pay the postage. I told him it was unnecessary. This is my random act of kindness for March 23, 2009. It is something that I hope someone would do for me should they locate my lost flash drive.
     As I thought about it, I wondered how anyone would know who my flash drive belonged to if it became lost and found? There is a myriad of files on my 16 GB electronics gadget. It is the length of my index finger from tip to second knuckle. Where in this conglomeration would a finder locate my precise name?
     It’s something we should all consider. Perhaps a folder with owner’s information should be the first item on the flash drive—number 0001. In it should be the owner’s name, phone number, address, and email, with a request to be informed of its location by the finder.
     Like identity theft, credit card theft, etc., lost of a flash drive, computer disc, or even a laptop, is something a person just does not think about—after all, these things only happen to someone else.
     But it happened to Steve. It could happen to you. Protect yourself with information backups and flash drive owner identification.
     Do any of my readers have any comments about how we handled the situation, having found a lost flash drive? Can you offer other options for locating the owner? What options does a finder of your lost flash drive have for locating you?






A Weekend in State College, Pennsylvania: Part 1


The Red Tuque


The Old Rocker


Kathy Kelly, of Voices of Wilderness: On Peace




  1. That sucks. They should’ve bought a encrypted USB drive 🙂

    Comment by Gregori Mancini — February 7, 2010 @ 12:02 pm | Reply

  2. I hope your flash drive shows up. Let me know if it does. It’s awful to lose so much data and work. I hope you had some kind of identification on it.


    Comment by carolyncholland — December 14, 2010 @ 10:06 am | Reply

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