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June 19, 2006

How NOT to steal a T-Mobile Sidekick

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 4:23 PM

It all started June 6, when a woman in New York City accidentally left her Sidekick in a taxi and she called her friend, Evan Guttman, to send a message to the Sidekick, offering a reward.

That first message snowballed into a two-week battle that has run rampant on the Internet -- from blogs abd forums to instant messaging and MySpace. The saga of how Guttman has tried to get the trendy gadget back has been well documented on his blog.

His detailed saga called "How NOT to steal a Sidekick" can be found here.

The key to this never-ending story is one of the special Sidekick features -- what you do on the device is stored on a remote server, so it not only shows up on the phone, but wherever you log in to access the server. (This is handy when you lose the device. It is also a double-edge sword. Remember Paris Hilton? Someone hacked into her account, and her photos and address book were well circulated on the Internet)

In this case, the unidentified woman who lost the Sidekick found this to be handy feature. When she bought a new Sidekick and logged in, she found photos of the supposed perpetrator -- also a woman -- and evidence of her logging in to AOL and MySpace accounts. From there, the Sidekick owner and Guttman contacted the alleged thief and found out lots of personal information about her from her MySpace account, including where she lived and information about her boyfriend.

Guttman's work includes almost hourly updates for the past 13 days. His persistence and motives are pure, he claims: He writes:

"Right now, I am more concerned about spreading this story. I want people to realize that what goes around, comes around. If you find a phone in a taxi or elsewhere.. it is NOT yours ... return it .. .and when u lose an item, then the same will happen for u. This is not a religious endeavor or a moral endeavor ... this is a HUMANITY endeavor. I want these people SHAMED into realizing what they have done."

The story is engaging because the person who purportedly took the device has e-mailed Guttman. So do her boyfriend and her brother (who claims to be military police). It has all the makings of a mobisode (you know, a soap opera made for mobile phones).

Guttman turns out to have developed a cult following of his own, claiming to get up to 1,400 e-mails a day and appearing on Web sites and radio shows. The Sidekick community, considered loyal and die-hard, as I point out in an earlier story, continues to log in for the most recent update. That, in turn, crashes servers, and the next thing just keeps on coming...

I'd like to say that this story ends happily, but there doesn't seem to be much of a conclusion -- or at least not yet.

The 49th and most recent update, which occured Sunday, simply says that Guttman tried calling the police precinct twice to follow up on the report he filed. He also mentions that his forum has been encountering trouble because of an infiltration of spam.

You'll have to keep logging in to see what happens next.

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Tricia Duryee
Tricia Duryee
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Angel Gonzalez
Angel Gonzalez
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Kristi Heim
Kristi Heim
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Benjamin J. Romano
Benjamin J. Romano
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Mark Watanabe
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