I'm not going to beat around the bush with this one; what we have here is an overblown story about a non-story, with a bit of overreaction mixed in for good measure. This is what happened:
Target sold an iPad Air that was meant to be a demo unit to a Canadian woman on Black Friday. She opened it and booted it up, finding a bunch of apps, a bunch of photographs and a bunch of contact information already on the device. She freaked out and contacted CTV, a Canadian news agency, and now it's being spread with headlines like "Woman buys 'new' iPad Air (full of someone else's stuff)."
No, she didn't buy someone's old iPad. She bought a demo unit filled with pre-loaded eye candy that was supposed to be stuck on a plastic arm and paged through by bored shoppers. If you take a look at the video above, you can see that all the photos in the iPad are professionally shot and even the profile images for the "previous owner's" contacts are perfect head shots on white backgrounds. Yep, it's a demonstration unit.
Not only that, according to the original report, the customer noticed that it was a demo unit after inspecting the sticker on the bottom, but instead of simply returning it to Target she decided to call a local news agency. You know, for justice.
But while this particular instance is clearly a stocking mistake and has nothing to do with privacy (which it is being exploited as elsewhere), it's a fine reminder that if you're ever in the position of returning an item like a smartphone, tablet or computer, be sure to wipe it ahead of time. The mythical "woman from California" that owned this iPad Air has nothing to lose, but the same probably can't be said for you.
Thanks to TUAW reader Adam for pointing this one out!