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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Many Lawyers Revealed Among Ashley Madison Data Dump

Earlier this week, the dating website for cheaters, Ashley Madison, suffered a potentially terminal blow to its business model.  Hackers calling themselves Impact Team dumped 9.7 gigabytes of personal account information onto the Internet, including members' emails, phone numbers, birthdates, credit card information; even their sexual preferences.

Perhaps not surprisingly, there were many lawyers found among the 37-million paid members of the supposedly discreet dating site.  Of the legal professionals identified, the Above-the-Law blog claims there were federal judges, Big Law partners, a law professor, and several associates from Chicago's Baker McKenzie, one of the largest law firms in the world.

The New York Times got in on the drama by posting links to two separate websites that will assist those who desire to search for someone specific among the dumped data. Both the law blog and the NYT warn that much of the account data is false; apparently as many as 95% of the sites users were men and a large percentage of women's profiles on the site were fake. What a classic scam...

When Ashley Madison was initially hacked last month, the site was warned that customer data would be dumped in 30-days unless the company removed its website from the Internet.  When it did not do so, here is what Impact Team posted on Tuesday:

For its part, Avid Life Media, the Toronto-based Canadian company that owns the dating website, has been cooperating with law enforcement in Canada and the U.S.  Vowing to pursue the criminals that hacked its site, the company posted the following message on its website yesterday:
This event is not an act of hacktivism, it is an act of criminality. It is an illegal action against the individual members of, as well as any freethinking people who choose to engage in fully lawful online activities. The criminal, or criminals, involved in this act have appointed themselves as the moral judge, juror, and executioner, seeing fit to impose a personal notion of virtue on all of society. We will not sit idly by and allow these thieves to force their personal ideology on citizens around the world. We are continuing to fully cooperate with law enforcement to seek to hold the guilty parties accountable to the strictest measures of the law.
One of the products available to the members of the dating website was a $19 option to scrub their profiles from the site's database. According to the NYT, Avid Life Media earned approximately two million dollars annually from customers availing themselves of the scrub-option. In the Impact Team's thorough hack, however, it was discovered that the data scrub option did not remove personal data from the site in many cases.

Privacy law has become a cutting-edge area of the law. We here at the Law Blogger wonder, is there any expectation of privacy for anyone key-stroking on the Internet?

No doubt, Internet privacy laws were broken in this data dump. Lawsuits and prosecutions will inevitably follow in the wake of this colossal hack.

On the upside, Internet-based businesses will use this hack as a case study to shore-up their security measures. This data breach has raised the bar of "best practices" that now must be taken in order to ensure the security of customers.

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