If there’s one thing that the companionship-seeking users of Ashley Madison prized most of all, it was discretion. Dating, with the potential for relationships, was not the main reason that users created accounts and cruised the site. The men who used the dating website – and it was mostly men – were searching for casual hookups. For a $19 fee, they were promised that their information would be kept safe and secure. It wasn’t. A hack into Ashley Madison’s computer systems resulted in the personal details of millions of its user divulged online for all to see.
Ashley Madison’s failure to maintain the integrity of customer information was a breach of confidentiality, and customers sued. The lawsuits can proceed, but there’s a hitch. A judge has decided that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, will have to sue using their real names, not some using fake names like “John Doe.” In extraordinary circumstances, such as cases involving sex crimes, victims are permitted to use pseudonyms due to the potential harm that exposure could bring. While the Ashley Madison customers could also face embarrassment or reputational harm, the judge concluded that there were limits to their victimization – even though they were victims of the hack, they also willingly signed up to with Ashley Madison, CNN Money explains.
The judge’s decision has led to at least one plaintiff withdrawing from the class action right away. The rest of the plaintiffs has until June 3 to decide whether to stay with the case and lodge an official class action suit using their real names. There is an advantage to being a named plaintiff in class action suit. Named plaintiffs are usually the ones rewarded with tens of thousands of dollars in a settlement, Ars Technica explains. But in data cases, such as the Ashley Madison breach, members of the class action typically receive little. The financial winners are usually the plaintiff’s attorneys.
This particular Ashley Madison case in Missouri involves 42 plaintiffs. The judge said he would revisit his decision if all, or virtually all, plaintiffs withdraw from the case, CNN Money reported. But this case is not the only Ashley Madison class action suit. In at least one of the other suits, plaintiffs are using their real names. Considering the millions of victims involved in the Ashley Madison breach, don’t expect this litigation to wrap up any time soon.