LOS ANGELES – In the aftermath of a data breach that exposed sensitive information about an estimated 37 million users, a former Ashley Madison member has filed a lawsuit against the infidelity dating website and its parent company.
A plaintiff identified only as John Doe seeks unspecified damages for the emotional distress he claims to have suffered as a result of what he characterizes as negligence in protecting clients’ personal and financial data. Both AshleyMadison.com and parent company Avid Life Media Inc. of Toronto are named as defendants.
Filed in U.S. District Court at Los Angeles, the lawsuit also seeks class-action status.
In the roughly six weeks since the security breach, celebrities including dethroned Christian icon Josh Duggar as well as U.S. and UK government officials and executives at European and American corporations have been outed as cheaters on their spouses and significant others. Ashley Madison’s tagline is “Life is short. Have an affair.”
The scandal began in mid-July, when a hacker group calling itself Impact Team claimed to have stolen seven years’ worth of user data from AshleyMadison.com’s servers. The group demanded AshleyMadison.com and sugar-daddy site EstablishedMen.com, also owned by ALM, be taken offline permanently. If its demands weren’t met, the hacker group threatened to reveal personal details including names, addresses, credit card numbers and sexual fetishes of website members. (Although ALM also owns CougarLife.com, that site wasn’t targeted.)
In mid-August, after ALM defiantly ignored the warnings, Impact Team made good on its threat, dumping gigabytes of data onto the so-called dark web.
“Too bad for those men, they’re cheating dirtbags and deserve no such discretion,” a statement from the hackers said. “Too bad for ALM, you promised secrecy but didn’t deliver.”
The lawsuit claims that although ALM beefed up digital security after the breach, the company engaged in willful negligence by failing to encrypt sensitive data before the attack.
The American lawsuit is the second filed against ALM and its properties: Another was filed in mid-August in Canada. The Canadian suit seeks $760 million in damages.