Most stories about the fallout from the Ashley Madison hack have involved individual clients, almost entirely men, suffering hits to their reputations, careers, and marriages because their names appeared on the infidelity website’s client list. Now there’s some blowback against Ashley Madison’s owners, Avid Life Media Inc. and Avid Dating Life Inc., from a pair of Canadian law firms that filed a huge $578 million class-action lawsuit on behalf of all Canadian clients.
According to a UPI report, the Canadians are suing because Ashley Madison failed to protect the privacy of its users. The suit directly references the service that charged clients an extra fee to completely and permanently delete their information, but clearly did nothing of the sort, since people who paid the fee are included in the client list posted online. This was, not coincidentally, the primary charge leveled by the Impact Team hackers who stole, and ultimately released, the Ashley Madison subscriber database.
UPI notes that the Canadian suit does not name the Impact Team hackers who stole the data, only the corporate entities that failed to protect it.
The lawyers chose a sympathetic primary plaintiff for their monster suit, an Ottawa subscriber named Eliot Shore. According to a press release from law firms Charley Lawyers and Sutts and Strosberg LLP, Shore is “a disabled widower” who was “single again after 30 years of marriage after he lost his wife to breast cancer. He joined the website for a short time in search of companionship but never met anybody in person from the site.”
The statement claims that “numerous former users of AshleyMadison.com have approached the law firms to inquire about their privacy rights under Canadian law.”
The Associated Press reports that the suit was filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, which has yet to certify its class-action status.
According to the AP report, Avid Life Media is refusing requests to comment on this particular suit, but has been defending itself by claiming that “the personal details exposed in the initial data leak can’t be used to prove the infidelity of their clients” – an assertion that would seem easily refuted by the fact that quite a few of the clients have been positively identified by the combination of subscriber and payment transaction data the Impact Team released.
This is the first class-action suit against Ashley Madison filed in Canada, and it would seem to be the largest suit against the owners to date, but it’s not the first time they’ve been sued for failing to protect their client data, or delivering on their promises to permanently delete it for an extra fee.
“In the U.S., Missouri lawyers have filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court seeking more than $5 million in damages,” reports the AP. “Lawyers filed a statement of claim late last month on behalf of an unnamed female plaintiff who said she ponied up $19 so Ashley Madison would purge her personal information from its website in a process called a ‘paid-delete.'”
Most of Ashley Madison’s subscribers were American, but it sounds like the data dump is poised to create quite a bit of havoc in Canada, too. The Associated Press reports that hundreds of email addresses in the client database “appear to be connected to federal, provincial and municipal workers across Canada, as well as to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the military.” Furthermore, some of the payment transactions for subscriptions originated from computers associated with the Department of National Defense and House of Commons.