This story has been updated.
Now that federal officials are done with the data they wanted to review after shutting down file-sharing site Megaupload, the fate of that data is in limbo.
Users who had legitimate files on the site — work documents, photos, home videos and more — may see that information deleted as soon as this week.
Federal officials sent a letter to Megaupload’s lawyers to let them know that the U.S. Department of Justice has completed its search of Megaupload servers held by two storage companies in Virginia — Carpathia Hosting and Cogent Communications — and that the government no longer controls access to the information. U.S. officials copied some data from the servers, but did not remove any.
The hosting companies now control the data.
“It is our understanding that the hosting companies may begin deleting the contents of the servers beginning as early as February 2, 2012,” U.S. District Attorney Neil MacBride wrote in the letter.
Ira Rothken, attorney for Megaupload, told The Associated Press that, after this development, at least 50 million customers could lose their files. Megaupload had been contracting with the companies to store the information, but can no longer pay those contracts because its assets have been frozen.
Still, Rothken said he hasn’t given up hope. “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 told the news service. He added that he hopes to use some of that data in Megaupload’s defense.
Megaupload claimed to have 1 billion users and 50 million daily users before it was shut down, and many wondered what would happen to consumer data after the site’s seizure.