Bullshit: Plaintiffs In Ashley Madison Data Breach Lawsuit Can’t Have Anonymity, Judge Rules

Back in July 2015, hackers seized millions of profiles from AshleyMadison.com, Cougar Life and Established Men, and published sensitive user data online, making good on their promise to expose the “cheating dirtbags” unless the sites were taken down. Now, 42 people who had their personal information disclosed are looking to act as anonymous representatives in a class action lawsuit against Avid Life Media, which owns the three properties, for failing to safeguard their personal and financial information. According to the New York Timesyesterday, a judge ruled that they would need to be publicly identified to proceed with the case. Seriously?

While it was later revealed that many of the women on the sites were actually fake, and that many of the account holders had never actually really used the sites to cheat, the Ashley Madison hack was nevertheless a massive invasion of privacy for users, not to mention their families.  The presumption that someone must be cheating because they have an Ashley Madison account, for example, is a big leap to make, while the hackers’ moralizing felt awfully hollow considering the breach also outed LGBT people. And then there’s the fact that what goes on in people’s bedrooms is nobody’s fucking business, infidelity isn’t a damn crime and while cheating can be harmful, the pressures of marriage and monogamy really make it much more complex than that SO SHUT THE FUCK UP and worry about keeping your own house clean, okay?

All of which adds up to me being wholly supportive of this lawsuit and the plaintiffs’ desire to be anonymous because, after all, ISN’T THAT WHAT THEY’RE SUING OVER? In papers filed with the court, these John Does requested anonymity “to reduce the risk of potentially catastrophic personal and professional consequences that could befall them and their families.”

However, Avid Life Media, argued that the sexual preferences and habits of the plaintiffs “do not constitute information of the utmost intimacy” and did not require anonymity. Oh? GTFO and go work on tightening your security measures and grooming your ladybots, jerks.

Unfortunately, Judge John A. Ross of the United States District Court in the Eastern District of Missouri ruled in Avid’s favor, noting in his ruling that while victims of rape and child sex abuse have been allowed to sue under pseudonyms, the fact that these plaintiffs might suffer “embarrassment” did not justify allowing them to file their lawsuit anonymously. Besides, he wrote in the April 6 ruling, “the personal and financial information plaintiffs seek to protect has already been released on the Internet and made available to the public.”

Uhhhh, so the fact that they have already been exposed somehow nullifies the harm caused by further public exposure? That in order to seek compensation for the harm caused by their privacy being violated, they must be willing to go fully public with information that was never anyone’s damn business in the first place? Besides, who says the only thing these folks are risking is “embarrassment”? The information exposed by the Ashley Madison hack had to be sought out — surely you remember the database that was set up where anyone could search for friends, family or significant others amongst the leaked accounts — but being one of 42 people in a high profile lawsuit arguably will result in even MORE exposure. Media outlets would be free and clear to report the names of those involved in the lawsuit, making their personal business headline news. Can someone remind Judge Ross that a few people exposed by the hack actually took their own lives? “Embarrassment” can lead people to do some pretty extreme things.

At the end of the day, these people all signed up for accounts with Avid Life Media’s websites under the promise that their personal information was secure. That turned out to be totally false, and millions suffered the consequences. To not allow these 42 people to anonymously sue over this violation of privacy is nonsensical and shitty.

[NY Times]