You’re going to have to choose between discretion and vindication if you want to take on Ashley Madison, the company whose business model involves facilitating infidelity. According to a new report, you’ll have to use your real name if you’re interested in adding yourself as a plaintiff in an ongoing legal battle against the firm. The scandal-laden case, currently being handled in Missouri, involves a sizable database of potential clients, and a judge has decided that pseudonyms won’t be allowed. The only exception to this rule will be in “extraordinary circumstances” — if there’s a sex crime or a juvenile at risk, then more discretion may be employed.
Even the threat of exposure, however, may not outweigh the potential for a substantial payout. The plaintiffs in the action are alleging that the company failed to adequately protect their private information, which was exposed in a massive hack of the company’s database.
As to the privacy issue, judge John Ross ruled that, “The disclosure of Plaintiffs’ identities could expose their sensitive personal and financial information — information stolen from Avid when its computer systems were hacked — to public scrutiny and exacerbate the privacy violations underlying their lawsuit. At the same time,” the judge further noted, “there is a compelling public interest in open court proceedings, particularly in the context of a class action, where a plaintiff seeks to represent a class of consumers who have a personal stake in the case and a heightened interest in knowing who purports to represent their interests in the litigation.”
Currently, plaintiffs (who do not yet have to use their real names) have until June 3 to file an official class-action complaint. But of course, to proceed, they’ll have to reveal their true identities.
As per an Ars Technica report, there’s another issue that Judge Ross will have to decide upon before the summer — whether or not to allow secret communications amongst Ashley Madison executives and their own lawyers into evidence in the lawsuit. Allegedly, some of these messages reveal that the company established fictitious female profiles in order to attract more male members to their 39-million-strong database. While Ashley Madison argues that this communication is protected under attorney-client privilege, the other side argues that the exchanges were made “with the intention of committing or covering up a crime or fraud.”
Stay tuned, friends. This case promises to stay as scandalous as the site itself.