A supremely slippery slope – and four more tech news stories from April

Marc Thaler

Marc Thaler rounds up five tech news stories that caught his eye during 2015’s fourth month.

Are you familiar with Thomas Robins? Internet giants like Google and Facebook likely know of the Virginia resident – and his story.

He certainly has the U.S. Supreme Court’s attention.

According to the Associated Press, the country’s top court “will decide whether websites and other firms that collect personal data can be sued for publishing inaccurate information even if the mistakes don’t cause any actual harm.”

Enter Robins. He sued data aggregator Spokeo.com for publishing his profile fraught with incorrect information. He claims it cost him job opportunities.

The initial ruling didn’t help Robins’ cause. But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Spokeo violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which regulates the collection and dissemination of consumer information.

Part of a possible class action, many more claim Spokeo harmed them. The penalty could be $1,000 per violation – billions total. So, it’s Spokeo’s turn to appeal.

Personal data is everywhere. It isn’t all accurate. Should you be able to sue over misinformation if actual harm can’t be proven?

While thinking it over, consider these stories that also made the cut:

“Where’s my watch?”

Dealing with a naked wrist?

Data researchers at Slice Intelligence report 78 percent of U.S. consumers who pre-ordered the Apple Watch did not receive it over the first weekend of shipments, April 24-26. Of the 1.7 million watches ordered, 376,000 shipped.

According to Slice, 61 percent of orders will ship by the end of May. Thirty-eight percent of buyers lack a definitive delivery date.

There’s this, too:

“A week before the device was set to go on sale in stores, Apple’s head of retail, Angela Ahrendts, said the wearable would not be available for in-store purchase until at least June,” PC World reported.

Hillary hires Hannon

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues to make tech headlines. The Washington Post, citing sources speaking on condition of anonymity, first reported Stephanie Hannon will become chief technology officer of Clinton’s expected presidential campaign.

Hannon is Google’s director of product management for civic innovation and social impact.

According to the report, “Hannon will serve on the senior staff and oversee a team of engineers and developers, which could include outside consultants, to devise web sites, apps and other tools for the former secretary of state and her staff to engage with supporters and voters.”

A fixture in Silicon Valley for 20 years, Hannon contributed to the development of Google Maps. Her first mission as CTO is ensuring “the technological infrastructure (is) in place for Clinton’s pending campaign launch.”

Startling statistics

A study by ISACA and the RSA Conference finds 82 percent of the 649 IT pros polled worldwide say their systems are “likely or very likely” to be attacked before 2015 ends.

Dwindling IT security talent isn’t helping. According to ISACA:

  • Only 16 percent consider half of their job applicants qualified to handle complex threats.
  • 53 percent say the timeline to find a qualified candidate can last six months.
  • More than 33 percent fail to fill vacancies.

“Sixty-four percent are very concerned or concerned about the Internet of Things, and less than half feel their security teams are able to detect and respond to complex incidents,” ISACA reports.

Disturbing data dump?

Just when the media firestorm surrounding the Sony hack appeared to be subsiding, the flames were fanned. WikiLeaks posted the complete archive of information related to the security scandal.

The archive includes 30,287 documents and 173,132 emails.

“The documents contain nuggets of personal information — lab tests, health insurance claims, doctor referrals — as well as Social Security numbers and other private data of thousands of employees at every level of the company,” Politico reported.

Despite extreme outrage from Sony officials, WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange wrote on the archive’s home page that all data will remain online: “This archive shows the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation.”

Assange argues it is “newsworthy.” Do you agree?