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Monday, 24 July 2017 00:00

A secret class-action lawsuit?

Written by Jonathan Druckman

How to deal with fake addresses and pseudonyms in the Ashley Madison Class Action Settlement.

Ashley Madison or the Ashley Madison Agency is a Canadian dating website that markets social networking services to people who are in monogamous relationships. The company’s slogan is: “Life is short. Have an affair”. In its prime, it boasted over 50 million members. In July of 2015, hackers stole all customer data including the name, addresses and emails of people who had signed up bringing the company unsolicited national headlines. The hackers were allegedly a group of people who had threatened to post the data of all customers online if the website was not permanently shut down.  On August 20, 2015 the hackers released all data, including the data of those who had previously paid a fee to have their data deleted.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys for the class members of the Ashley Madison data breach are presented with an interesting dilemma. Many of the users of the website wish to remain anonymous based on the nature of the website. A direct notice to the members of the class would be impossible because of all the incorrect information listed. The lawyers representing the plaintiff have come up with a plan to distribute notices through magazines and online ads rather than via email. The lawyers claim that forms will be “strictly confidential”.

The Defense challenged the claims by arguing the hack did not result in legitimate injuries and that users of the website agreed to arbitration clauses when they initially set up their accounts. Ashley Madison’s parent company has already agreed to a settlement agreement.  Generally speaking the amount that individual class members receive in class action lawsuits is fairly modest.  In a case like this, it is likely that many will choose to forego their claims to avoid any chance that their membership in the website will come to the knowledge of their spouses.  

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