Suppose I found a flash drive in a public library.

Am I legally allowed to claim possession of it?

Is it legal to look at the contents in order to determine the owner (which potentially contains sensitive information and / or malware)?

Must I return the found item to the owner (if determined)?

  • 1
    Of course you can't claim it is yours, it obviously isn't! -1.
    – user4657
    Jan 8, 2017 at 2:23
  • What if the owner can't be determined? What should I do with it then?
    – My Name
    Jan 8, 2017 at 2:28
  • That's not your concern, it's the police's or the librarians' job. Return lost property to the latter if possible, the former if not.
    – user4657
    Jan 8, 2017 at 2:30
  • Thank you for your input. I will await further responses by others
    – My Name
    Jan 8, 2017 at 2:53
  • 1
    Additionally, you do not know what the USB will do to your computer. Some virus can be installed through infected USBs. Some devices are designed to look like USB drives but when you put them in a PC they fry its internal electronics...
    – SJuan76
    Jan 8, 2017 at 17:32

1 Answer 1


You must try to locate the true owner and take care of it until returned to its owner or prior possessor. You must return it to the owner (if/when found) immediately.

You may be allowed to claim possession when it will become an unclaimed property, which is eventually deemed abandoned property where the apparent owner has not claimed the property. Depending on the category of property, the recovery must be within as little as one year and as long as fifteen years. General personal property becomes abandoned five years after the date on which the owner’s right to recover the property arises.

You should not look at its content and leave an appointed person to do it.

As you found it in a Library you should return to an employee. If you want to be able to claim possession of it if the owner won't be find, you should ask him to take your name and contact details explaining the reason. However the library could be second (after the owner) in the line to claim it.

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