A class action lawsuit has been filed against AshleyMadison.com, a popular Canadian website that facilitates extra-marital affairs. This is after a recent breach of the site’s data systems exposed the personal information of about 39 million current and former users.
Given the nature of the website – and the potential consequences stemming from the release of this information – two Canadian law firms have filed a $578 million class action suit against Avid Life Media, the Toronto-based company behind the site.
Ashley Madison is seeking to limit its damages. They’re arguing that membership alone is not enough to prove an extramarital relationship in fact occurred.
Many of the names and email addresses posted in the data dump don’t appear to be associated with valid accounts. However, the information is nevertheless extremely damaging. For some users, the leak exposed everything. Ranging from credit card information and geolocation data to security questions for recovering lost passwords.
The motivation for the hack appears to be moral outrage at the site’s mission and content. The group of hackers behind the breach, known as The Impact Team, released the following statement at the time the breach occurred: “It was [Avid Life Media] that failed you and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages. Then move on with your life. Learn your lesson and make amends. Embarrassing now, but you’ll get over it.”
In addition to any negligence claims or breach of contract, Ashley Madison may find itself liable for fraud as well. The site offered a service allowing users to delete the information the site had recorded about them for $18. Yet many people who were exposed had paid for this service.
This “paid delete” feature lies at the heart of another class action lawsuit filed against the company in July. The plaintiff in that case also alleged that her “paid delete” was unsuccessful.
Computer forensic experts will be able to evaluate this deletion procedure, as well as Ashley Madison’s general encryption systems, in determining the extent of the negligence or fraud committed by the website.