Palm Pre user sues, alleging data loss

The man wants to start a class action after Palm's cloud-based backup system failed to restore most of his data

A Palm Pre user is suing Palm and Sprint Nextel, alleging they caused him to lose most of the data from his phone, and he wants to turn the suit into a class action.

The suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, in San Jose, is the latest black eye for the Palm Profile cloud-based synchronization service, which debuted with the company's webOS on the Pre earlier this year. Palm and Sprint last month said "a small number of customers" had had trouble transferring their data from Palm Profiles to new Palm devices and that they were working on a solution.

The system is designed to let users back up contacts, calendars, memos and other data from their webOS devices to Palm's servers once every 24 hours. That data is supposed to be available for downloading to a new device if necessary. There is no built-in mechanism for backing up to a PC.

Jason Standiford of San Francisco filed suit on Friday, claiming that he had returned a defective Palm Pre to a Sprint store last month and expected to get all of his contacts, memos and Internet bookmarks back from his Palm Profile online after synchronizing the replacement device. It was the fourth time he had returned a defective Pre, according to the complaint (PDF).

When he synchronized the replacement device with his Palm Profile, only four contacts were left of the hundreds that had been on his previous phone, the suit alleges. Two of those were for Sprint customer service and two were recently added entries. Palm Profile restored only three of his memos and none of his bookmarks, the suit says. Returning to the Sprint store the next day, he found they still had his old phone and asked them to restore the data stored on it, but the attempt failed and deleted all the data on that device.

Sprint later tried again to restore the data to the new phone and was able to produce some of it, but not all, the suit says.

The data on the defective Pre was the only backup of Standiford's original information because Palm always overwrites the previous day's backup, the suit alleges.

The suit charges Palm and Sprint, as well as 50 unnamed individuals, with breach of contract, negligence and violation of three California business laws. The companies deceived consumers by concealing the potential problems caused by inadequate preparation for server problems, according to the complaint. It also alleges the companies failed to invest in the hardware, software, procedures, security and other resources needed to make sure the system would perform reliably.

"Despite the confidence Palm and Sprint have placed in their backup systems and Palm's servers, numerous WebOS users have suffered catastrophic data loss as a result of failed backups or overwriting of previously stored data," the complaint says.

Standiford and his attorneys want the court to certify the suit as a class action on behalf of all users of webOS devices, including the Pre and Palm Pixi, as well as the set of users who have lost data because of Palm's synchronization problems. They are seeking monetary and injunctive relief.

Representatives from Palm and Sprint did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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