A Losing Proposition


By Samuel Greengard

Every passing day, it's apparent that our tech gear is our life. Many of us now stow our photo collections, music libraries, key work documents and a spate of other things on hard drives and in flash memory. As digital wallets take hold, we'll wade even further into the virtual realm. Money, tickets and other items will reside in our smartphones.

While the convenience of having everything important to us stored in a device is undeniable, the risks are significant. A new report from online backup service Mozy uncovered some interesting facts: Seventy percent of those surveyed—3,500 people across the United States and Europe—have lost a data storage device at some point in the past.

The most risky time to lose a device is 6 p.m. on Saturdays during the holidays. In fact, one-quarter of us will lose something (though not necessarily an electronic device) on Super Saturday (the Saturday before Christmas), which, as I write this, is tomorrow!

Overall, women top men for losing digital devices (21.5 percent versus 15.6 percent), and public transit is a black hole of electronics, with nearly 20 percent of devices disappearing on subways, trains and buses. Not surprisingly, major cities are epicenters of loss, with New York, Chicago and Atlanta leading the way.

The average cost to the person losing the device? $220.15, not including the cost of the data, which 57 percent indicated was more upsetting than losing the device itself.

The good news? Just over half of lost items in the U.S. found their way back to their owners courtesy of a kind stranger, compared to just 12 percent who were able to locate their own device. This despite device tracking software such as Apple's Find my iPhone and third-party apps like Lookout.

More unsettling is the finding that of the 61 percent who found a lost item, only half actually returned the device to the owner. Remarkably, 16 percent kept the item, and 6 percent admitted that they sold it.

Perhaps the most disturbing finding of all was that 97 percent who dropped their smartphone in a toilet said that it was so important they "had to retrieve it." All of which brings new meaning to the term "digital upload."