Megaupload customers could see their data permanently deleted as soon as Thursday, federal prosecutors say.
Users have been unable to access their data since the file-sharing site was shut down on Jan. 19, the Associated Press reported. Now, in a letter filed yesterday by the US Attorney's Office, prosecutors have warned that two third-party storage companies Megaupload paid to store the files – which are said to include legitimate data such as home videos and work documents – may begin erasing them this week.
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"It is our understanding that the hosting companies may begin deleting the contents of the servers as early as Feb. 2, 2012," the letter said, according to PCWorld.
Megaupload has been unable to pay the storage companies, Carpathia Hosting and Cogent Communications, since its company funds were frozen as part of the bust, one of the lawyers representing the site, Ira Rothken, told the AP.
At least 50 million Megaupload customers are at risk of losing their data, Rothken said. He also indicated that the data would be important for the defense to build its case.
Rothken is "cautiously optimistic" a deal to save the data can be reached, he said.
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The prosecutors' letter said the government had executed its search warrant and no longer had any right to access the servers, which remain the property of Carpathia and Cogent.
Megaupload users have been in uproar since access to their accounts was first denied following the site's shutdown. TorrentFreaks cited some of the complaints on Twitter from users who claimed they were using it as a legitimate storage facility:
@AnimainSparkstr: #SOPA has claimed #megaupload...I had files up there...gone forever...and they were personal recordings! No copyright infringement!
@nicole8angel: #Megaupload is one thing that helps me send big files to my group mates when we're making projects.. bring it back...
PCWorld warned that people who choose to store data with any cloud service that "offers file storage on the front end and shows pirated video out the back," as well as risking the loss of their data, are also making it easier for the government, and possibly hackers, to peer into their files without their knowledge or consent.