Federal prosecutors say Megaupload users’ data could be deleted as soon as Thursday.

U.S. prosecutors blocked access to the electronic file-sharing service Jan. 19 and charged seven men, saying the company facilitated millions of illegal downloads of movies, music and other content.

The company says its users, who it claimed numbers 50 million a day, stored their own data, including family photographs and personal documents, through its service. Users haven’t been able to see their data since the government shutdown, but there has been hope they would be able to get it back.

Megaupload contracted outside companies to store the data, but company attorney Ira Rothken said Sunday that the government has frozen the company’s money. A letter filed in the case Friday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said Dulles-based Carpathia Hosting and Cogent Communications Group, which is based in the District, may begin deleting files Thursday.

The letter said the government copied some data from the servers but did not physically take them. It said that now that it has executed its search warrants, it has no right to access the data. The servers are controlled by Carpathia and Cogent and issues about the future of the data must be resolved with them, prosecutors said.

Carpathia, however, in a statement Monday said it “does not have, and has never had, access to the content on Megaupload servers,” and therefore is unable to help customers access their data. It asked customers who are concerned about their data to contact Megaupload. Cogent did not respond to a request for comment.

Rothken said the company is working with prosecutors to try to keep the data from being erased. Rothken said the data is important to Megaupload so it can defend itself in the legal case.

“We’re cautiously optimistic at this point that because the United States, as well as Megaupload, should have a common desire to protect consumers, that this type of agreement will get done,” he said.

Megaupload is based in Hong Kong. U.S. authorities said they had authority to intervene because some of its leased servers are in Virginia.

— Associated Press