Avid Life Media, the parent company for AshleyMadison.com, is facing a class action lawsuit in California after hackers stole the site's subscriber database and posted the information online. With over 30 million user's records now online and the serious impact that's having on people's lives, it's a safe bet the lawsuits are just beginning.
The lawsuit frenzy over Ashley Madison's data breach is firing up
The lawsuit was filed by someone calling themselves John Doe alleging ALM failed to keep his personal information private. The lawsuit claimed, "For many of the website's users, the publicity of this information has created and will continue to create irreparable harm," and goes on to say that ALM should've taken measures to protect subscriber's personal information, according to the LA Times.
That lawsuit joins another in California, along with simliar class action cases in Texas and Missouri.
Personal information for more than 30 million people who used the dating and affair site was stolen by The Impact Team who were demanding AshleyMadison.com and companion site Established Men shut down. When ALM refused to comply with The Impact Team's demands, 9.7GB worth of subscriber names and email addresses were released on the Internet along with the statement, "Too bad for those men, they're cheating dirtbags and deserve no such discretion."
The Impact Team said ALM was charging subscribers US$19 to delete their personal information, but then failed to do so. ALM denied the claim, and has since dropped the fee for deleting user accounts.
The lawsuit doesn't come as a surprise since AshleyMadison.com's customers did have a reasonable expectation of privacy since the site touts itself as a "100% discreet service," and a "SSL secure site." Once their personal information was stolen and released, any hope of privacy or discretion went out the window.
The Impact Team may have felt justified in their actions, and seems to be fine with characterizing AshleyMadison.com's users as nothing more than cheating husbands who deserved to have their personal lives exposed on the Internet. In reality, the site served a wide range of men and women with varied reasons for being there.
Some were seeking discreet affairs, but others were looking for partners in open relationships, or trying to find companionship from like minded or nonjudgemental people. Regardless of the reasons for using the site, no one had the right to expose their personal lives.
The released records have already caused problems for many people who now have to explain or justify their personal lives. In more extreme cases, people who were looking for same sex partners in countries where homosexuality carries a death penalty are trying to seek asylum with friendlier governments, hate crimes have been linked to the published data, and U.S. military members are facing the potential court martial for adultery. Even worse, at least two suicides in Canada have been linked to the released records.
Toronto police, where ALM is located, have been investigating the case along with the help of international agencies. They're looking for suspects in the data theft and Staff Supt. Bryce Evans commented, "Your actions are illegal and won't be tolerated," according to CBC News.
Once suspects have been identified and arrested, it's a safe bet they'll face court time in more than just Canada. ALM's customers will likely file class action lawsuits, and jurisdictions that can file criminal charges may do so, too.
ALM can't make the data that's been posted to the Internet go away, but it is taking steps to improve its security to avoid future data theft, and is also offering a $500,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
When all is said and done, there may be a single person facing criminal charges in the case. Considering the amount of data taken, along with the administrative information that was taken in addition to user accounts, it's possible the theft was an inside job.
ALM CEO said as much when news of the breach was first released. He said the theft was most likely someone who had legitimate access to company data and that they were close to identifying them. Since charges haven't been filed yet, it looks like that investigation is still underway. John McAfee, who has a controversial past and is a name in the tech security world, thinks the suspect is a lone woman on ALM's payroll.
Whoever is behind the data theft is no doubt facing some serious courtroom time, and whatever anonymity they have—just like the AshleyMadison.com users they exposed—will vanish overnight.