Lawsuits over Ashley Madison hack face tough road

Bree Fowler of AP explains why victims of the AshleyMadison.com breach may have a tough time trying to sue Avid Life Media over the breach. Citing one lawyer’s opinion, Fowler reports:

Regardless, Vernick says most courts have ruled that people can’t sue breached companies just because they face the possibility of becoming victims of credit card fraud or identity theft. At the same time, the humiliation that could result from a person’s Ashley Madison membership becoming public probably isn’t a big enough deal in the eyes of the courts to allow a lawsuit to go forward, he says.

Embarrassment isn’t a “big enough deal?” If a person’s sexual fantasies and preferences are exposed to colleagues and employers, that’s not a big enough deal? How about if marriages break up? If children’s beliefs about their father or mother are wrecked? If people in the military are found to have breached military code of conduct and their military career or security clearance is impacted?

What’s a “big enough” non-financial harm that courts will recognize in data breaches?

And is it possible that non-financial claims might stand a better chance than suits in which consumers suffer no actual financial harm because banks reimburse them for any fraudulent activity on payment cards?  Is there a stronger case for social harm/injury than for worry and time spent being vigilant over credit reports?

Scott Vernick may be right, but in a perfect world (as defined by ME), he shouldn’t be right. Those harms are significant and need to be considered. Not everything is about financial fraud.

Of course, there are those who will claim that any plaintiffs assumed the risk by signing up for this type of site. But that defense should be considered later – after the issue of standing – shouldn’t it?

Read more on Thai Visa.

In the meantime, Avid Life Media has lawyered up. And as part of their strategy, they seem to be trying to use DMCA takedown notices to get data removed the web and even from news stories or tweets. Trying to claim copyright over the hacked material is not sitting well with some:

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