Ashley Madison is a website where the main service is to provide an online social website where people wishing to have an affair can find like-minded people. That’s pretty much it. The platform’s purpose is pretty straightforward. Putting morality aside for today, lawyers are watching this with interest for many reasons including legal cases that could arise in the areas of intellectual property, family law, divorce, separation, custody, asset allocation during divorce, visitation, criminal defense, misappropriation of intellectual property, theft, invasion of privacy, extortion, defamation, libel, slander, fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault by the transmission of a disease and other criminal and civil lawsuits.
The website claims to have over 40,730,000 “anonymous members!” [Well, maybe not now...]
Here is how the website describes why it exists: Ashley Madison is the world's leading married dating service for discreet encounters.
Okay, that’s pretty straightforward in terms of why people might want to use this service, but that is where simplicity ends. It ends there because you can’t assume only people cheating on a spouse are using this service.
Why is Ashley Madison in the news?
Hackers, allegedly using the Internet invaded Ashley Madison’s computers [AM] stole membership information, then threatened to expose members if AM did not shut down. AM refused to shut down and those with the membership information began publishing some of the information AM believes was stolen.
While this shouldn’t be something we amuse ourselves with there are many people who find it amusing. Why? Because here you have a website that makes millions based on providing a service to people engaged in immoral activity while trying to claim the moral high ground.
I started thinking through how a person might be examined under oath in a lawsuit for invasion of privacy. The scenario that unfolded was really pretty odd.
Invasion of Privacy Victims vs Ashley Madison
Victims represented by Liar, Liar & Pants On-Fire
Plaintiffs’ vs Ashley Madison - A Train Wreck Waiting to Happen
What will they sue for? Damage to reputation? Emotional distress? You ruined my marriage?
Q: "So what is worse for your reputation, us exposing you or you cheating on your spouse and your family, friends and colleagues knowing they should never trust you?"
Q: "Do you claim to be damaged now that everyone knows you are a cheater and a liar? What is worse, the part about you being a cheater or the part about you being a liar? Or are they both equally true? And weren't you a cheater and liar before our website was hacked? So how are you damaged following the hack for being a cheater and a liar if you were always a cheater and a liar?"
Q: "Let us talk about your claim for emotional distress. That is what you are claiming as damages right? I'm not sure I understand that claim so bare with me. Which caused you more distress? Your name being published showing you cheated on your spouse or you registering for this web site, then giving them your credit card information, worrying your spouse might find the credit card receipts, then setting up the rendezvous, not wanting to get caught going there, hiding the contact information from your spouse, wondering if the person who your were cheating with was crazy and might expose you or stalk you or even kill you, cheating on your spouse 25 times and then worrying that maybe you contracted a venereal disease and would infect your spouse and perhaps your children?"
Q: "Do you have a venereal disease? If so, which one? Who else have you slept with and did you wear a condom? Did you warn other people who you slept with that you had been sleeping around with all these other people? Which ones did you warn and which didn't you warn? Okay my client has the right to test your veracity, especially since you admit to being a liar, so here is a blank sheet of paper. Please right down the names and contact information for each person you contacted through Ashley Madison's website and in that far right column indicate if you sleep with them."
Q: "Let's go through each one of those events so I can make sure and understand how much emotional distress you felt about each time you cheated and how that is different than the one time you got caught."
Q: "Oh and what about other web sites? How many others are you registered? Let's go through each one of those."
.... I'm just getting warmed up. My advice is to think long and hard about where this will end up before joining any class action against AM. The road will get pretty rough when it comes to proving up damages.
Cheating, Inc. At Ashley Madison's website for "dating," infidelity is alive, well, and profitable
This sort of reminds me of the Dire Straits song Money For Nothing.