Individuals suing Ashley Madison for last year's hack that revealed their identities online will not be able to remain anonymous during the trial, a federal judge has ruled.
Forty-two plaintiffs are bringing a proposed class-action suit against the extramartial-affair dating website for not fulfilling its "full delete" promise, which was supposed to wipe every last bit of data on a user for a fee of $19. The litigation also is looking to sue Avid Life Media, the website operator behind Ashley Madison, for possibly creating phony profiles of women to attract sign-ups, Ars Technica reported. Both issues were raised when a massive hack made public the identities of more than 30 million users and exposed that the site might be engaging in fraudulent practices.
Plantiffs requested that their identities remain anonymous “to reduce the risk of potentially catastrophic personal and professional consequences that could befall them and their families,” according to court papers as reported by the New York Times. But earlier this month, the judge ruled against the request, arguing that anonymity is granted primarily under extreme circumstances, such as those involving minors, rape, or other highly sensitive matters. The judge acknowledged that courts have allowed anonymity on grounds of humiliation in the past.
"At the same time, there is a compelling public interest in open court proceedings, particularly in the context of a class-action suit, where a plaintiff seeks to represent a class of consumers who have a personal stake in the case and a heightened interest in knowing who purports to represent their interests in the litigation," he wrote.
People who are part of the class filing suit have until June 3 to do so under their real names. Advantages of joining the class-action suit involve the potential for significant monetary compensation from any settlement. But in data-breach cases, as Ars Technica notes, the plaintiffs' lawyers are traditionally paid out much higher than the plaintiffs themselves.