TORONTO (AP) — Two Canadian law firms have filed a $578 million class-action lawsuit against the companies that run Ashley Madison after a hacker group’s data breach exposed some 39 million memberships in the adultery website earlier this week.
Charney Lawyers and Sutts, Strosberg LLP, both of Ontario, said in a statement that they have filed on behalf of Canadians who subscribed to Ashley Madison and whose personal information was disclosed to the public. The website, with its slogan “Life is short. Have an affair,” is marketed to facilitate extramarital relationships.
The lawsuit targets Avid Dating Life Inc. and Avid Life Media Inc., the Toronto-based companies that run AshleyMadison.com. Its class-action status “still needs to be certified by the court,” the statement says.
The plaintiff is Eliot Shore, an Ottawa widower. Shore said he joined the website for a short time in search of companionship after he lost his wife to breast cancer. He said he never cheated and never met up with any members of the site.
The lawsuit argues that the privacy of Canadian members was breached in July when hackers infiltrated Ashley Madison’s website and downloaded private information. The data breach includes users’ personal names, emails, home addresses and message history. On Tuesday, the information was posted publicly online.
The law firms’ statement said numerous former users of the website have approached them to inquire about their privacy rights under Canadian law.
“They are outraged that AshleyMadison.com failed to protect its users’ information. In many cases, the users paid an additional fee for the website to remove all of their user data, only to discover that the information was left intact and exposed,” lawyer Ted Charney said in the statement.
The law firms said the lawsuit is not being brought against the hackers, who have said they attacked the website in an effort to close it down as punishment for collecting a fee without actually deleting users’ data.
Ashley Madison did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It has said that the personal details exposed in the initial data leak can’t be used to prove the infidelity of their clients.
The law firms did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and it was not clear in what court the class-action lawsuit was filed.