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Here come the lawsuits: Ashley Madison faces $578m class action in Canada

Ashley Madison
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First the leak of some 36 million Ashley Madison memberships. Now the lawsuits.

Two Ontario law firms have got the ball rolling, acting on behalf of Canadian members of the site whose personal details were exposed in the attack. The $578-million class action targets Toronto-based Avid Life Media and Avid Dating Life, who operate the infamous adultery website.

The security breach, carried out by a group calling itself Impact Team, took place on July 19. The hackers threatened to dump 9.7 gigabytes of membership data online if Ashley Madison’s owners didn’t take the site down within a month. With the site still up this week, Impact Team followed through and dumped the data online, making international headlines, and likely causing more than a few marriages to implode, in the process.

The released data contains members’ login details, email addresses and phone numbers, as well as intimate details of their sexual preferences and fantasies. While many people joined the site using fake details, many did not, leaving them in a precarious position when the stolen data went global.

The two law firms representing Canadian members hit by the hack are Sutts Strosberg and Charney Lawyers. David Robins, a partner at Sutts Strosberg, told CTV News the plaintiffs allege a range of violations, among them negligence, breach of contract, and breach of privacy.

“They were promised confidentiality, Robins said, “The reason they were enticed to go to Ashley Madison was the promise of anonymity, and now all that information has been leaked.”

However, with most Ashley Madison users desperate to remain anonymous, the law firms are finding it difficult to get affected members to add their name to the lawsuit.

CTV News reports that while the firms have received many calls from concerned members keen to know their legal options, so far only one person – Ottawa resident Eliot Shore – has been willing to add their name to the action.

Shore says he joined the service after his wife passed away, adding that he never met anyone through it and had forgotten he’d joined till last month when news of the hack emerged.

While the legal teams want more people to add their names to the suit, Canadian law means the action could still proceed with only one or two people named while the rest remain anonymous, Ted Charney of Charney Lawyers said.

The law firms are now waiting to see if the Canadian courts will allow the action to move ahead as a national class-action suit, a process that could take six months or longer.

Ashley Madison’s operators said this week, “The criminal, or criminals, involved in this act have appointed themselves as the moral judge, juror, and executioner, seeing fit to impose a personal notion of virtue on all of society,” adding that law enforcement agencies are now investigating the incident.

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