Ashley Madison hauled to court in class action suits over data breach

Users of the site have filed law suits in both the US and Canada

Legal pressure on Ashley Madison and its parent company is picking up with more class-action lawsuits filed this week in the U.S. against the extramarital hookup site, alleging its negligence in protecting confidential user data.

Suits filed in federal courts in California and Texas by people using John Doe as a pseudonym, claim for damages, alleging that Avid Life Media, the parent company based in Toronto, did not have adequate and reasonable measures to secure the data of users from being compromised, and failed to notify users in time of the breach.

Avid Life Media said it had been made aware of an attack on its systems. Hacker group, Impact Team, released data last week that it claimed it had obtained from the website.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for Central District of California, Western Division claims that on or about July 20, 2015, the hackers downloaded "highly-sensitive personal, financial, and identifying information of the website’s some 37 million users."

The hackers then threatened to leak the data if the website was not shut down, and published some parts of the information last week. "Among the data compromised and downloaded were profiles of individuals who executed the option to scrub their user profiles and all associated data and paid $19 to Defendants to do so, yet Defendants failed to actually scrub the data," according to the complaint.

"One of the primary purposes of Defendants product and services was confidentiality and anonymity," according to the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

At least five suits seeking class-action status have been filed in Canada and in U.S. courts in California, Texas and Missouri, according to NBC.

That Ashley Madison would face user lawsuits was apparent soon after the hack was disclosed, with law firms taking the initiative.

The Rosen Law Firm, for example, last week announced it had initiated a class action lawsuit investigation regarding a potential debit and credit card breach at Ashley Madison, and was also looking at consumer fraud claims in connection with the website's “Full Delete” service, which purported to eliminate user profiles and traces on its website and database in exchange for a fee. It invited members of Ashley Madison to contact the law firm to participate in the class-action lawsuit or discuss their rights.

In the Canada lawsuit, Eliot Shore, described as a disabled widower in Ottawa, has filed a national class proceeding on behalf of all Canadians who subscribed to Ashley Madison and whose personal information was disclosed to the public. The lawsuit alleges that Ashley Madison failed to protect the information, which includes users' personal names, emails, home addresses and message history, according to the lawyers.

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John Ribeiro

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