Whose Data Is It, Anyway?
WHEN Tomm Purnell’s uncle, Keith Cochran, died last year, Mr. Purnell’s mother received two of Mr. Cochran’s computers. One of them, a laptop, is password-protected, and even though Mr. Purnell considers himself somewhat of a computer geek, “the really obvious passwords,” he said, like the names of Mr. Cochran’s cats and combinations of his Social Security number, have failed. “I guess he assumed that whoever came in would figure it out,” said Mr. Purnell, a physics student at Colorado State University. “I have no clue what’s on there, but I’d like to find out.” While terminally ill, Mr. Cochran, a programmer, left a full list of passwords for his work files with his employer, Mr. Purnell said. But he failed to do the same thing with the personal files, so they are now inaccessible. With home computers largely replacing filing cabinets as the secure storage place for financial records, tax returns and even sentimental pictures, the problem confronting Mr. Purnell may become more common. Full Story