Consumers must take responsibility for protecting their personal data and stop relying on manufacturers or retailers to wipe returned devices.
Motorola Mobility announced last week that approximately 100 refurbished Xoom Wi-Fi tablets sold by Woot.com had not been wiped of the original owner's personal data. The affected tablets were sold between October and December 2011. The company asked buyers of the refurbished units to return them and is offering the devices' original owners a complimentary two-year membership of Experian’s ProtectMyID Alert.
I'm glad to see Motorola stepping up to the plate for the customers who returned their Xooms without wiping them, but I don't think they're to blame for the debacle. Wiping a personal device prior to returning it is the owner's responsibility, plain and simple. And, not knowing how to wipe the device is no excuse. You just bought a Wi-Fi only device. Doing so implies that you know how to access the Internet, and that you should know how to type "wipe xoom", "xoom factory reset", or "delete all xoom data" into a search engine.
As Motorola said in their statement, "Original owners who performed a factory data reset prior to returning the device are not impacted."One caveat: As TechRepublic member Rymech99 noted in the discussion thread, there are times owners might not be able to wipe their devices. If the display stops working, the operating system crashes, the touchscreen sensor fails, or the device won't power on, owners may not be able to wipe the device. If this is the case, owners are in a tough spot. Depending on the device and type of damage, you might be able to wipe it remotely or via a computer connection, for example through iTunes. If the device really is dead, there's likely not much the average consumer can do other the physically destroy the device (bad if you need to return it) or trust the manufacturer to wipe the data.
Transformer Prime comes with previous owner's data
Last week, I wrote about my very own experience with an Asus Transformer Prime that came complete with the previous owner's personal data. I did the right thing. I immediately preformed a factory reset, returned the unit to the retailer, and notified the previous owner. But, everyone may not take these same steps.
I asked the TechRepublic audience if they had ever returned a device without wiping. Of the more than 550 members who responded, nearly 10 said they had.
I included instructions for wiping iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 7 devices my previous article, but here they are again.
- iOS: From one of the Home Screen, press Settings, scroll down to and tap General, and then select Reset. From the Rest screen, choose the option Erase All Content and Settings. Read the warning and tap Erase iPhone.
- Android: From the Home screen, press the Menu button and then Settings. Select Privacy and press Factory data reset. Read the warning message, select the Erase SD card box if you want, and press the Reset phone button.
- Windows Phone 7: Swipe or tap the arrow on the Start screen and then scroll down to and tap Settings. Scroll down to and tap About and select “reset your phone”. Read the warning message and click “yes”.