Reg comments13

Ashley Madison lawsuit drops GoDaddy and Amazon as defendants

Plus: Injunction aims to nix websites hosting hacked data ahead of court case

Amazon and GoDaddy have been dropped as defendants in an ongoing lawsuit over hosted data from have-an-affair site Ashley Madison – as the plaintiffs try and force offending websites to delete the data ahead of any future trial.

As we reported last week, three John Doe plaintiffs filed a complaint against Amazon Web Services, GoDaddy, and 20 John Roes (anonymous defendants), over access the defendants offered – and continue to offer – to the stolen Ashley Madison customer databases.

The defendants' "widespread and incurable dissemination" of extra-marital affairs data, which includes that of the three anonymous plaintiffs, leaves those plaintiffs facing "immediate irreparable injury", they claimed.

Their attorney said that each plaintiff told him "that the public disclosure of his use of the Ashley Madison website has caused him great shame, embarrassment, and anxiety, and it threatens to disrupt and seriously interfere with his family relationships".

As such, the trio have applied for a temporary restraining order (TRO) (PDF) against the defendants' websites, claiming:

Such relief is warranted by the likelihood that Plaintiffs will succeed on their claims, the irreparable harm to Plaintiffs absent injunctive relief, the overwhelming balance of equity in Plaintiffs' favor, and the general public interest in mitigating the harm caused by the unlawful hacking of consumer information.

Only 20 defendants remain in the case because both Amazon and GoDaddy were dismissed from the suit without prejudice, according to a notice of dismissal filed with the court (PDF) on Friday.

Dismissal without prejudice leaves the plaintiffs with the ability to re-file their case against the ISPs at a future date. According to the TRO application, the dismissal followed discussions between the defendants and plaintiffs, during which Amazon and GoDaddy stated "that they will comply with any order of this Court concerning the [defendants and their websites], including a TRO or early discovery order."

The TRO applied for would require the defendants to disable their websites, and further stop them "from registering, maintaining, or operating, whether directly or indirectly, any website related to the Stolen Data pending the resolution of this litigation."

The 20 remaining defendants are all titled John Roe (1-20), as their real identites are unknown. They are specified as:

  • John Roe 1, the owner/operator of ashleymadisonpowersearch.com and adulterysearch.com
  • John Roe 2 the owner/operator of ashleymadisoninvestigations.com
  • John Roe 3 the owner/operator of greyhatpro.com
  • John Roes 4-20 who "are unknown at this time, but are believed to be, among other persons or entities, additional Internet service providers and website operators trafficking in the Stolen Data"

The application to the court notes that the plaintiffs have remained unable to identify the Roe defendants, or "serve them with the Summons and Complaint." They have requested leave from the court to conduct expedited discovery "that is narrowly-tailored to the task of identifying and serving the Roe Defendants."

Additionally noted in the application is that the plaintiffs "seek a provision in the TRO that the TRO may be served on the Roe Defendants through electronic means that are reasonably calculated to reach the Roe Defendants, such as email addresses or “Contact Us” submission portals provided on the Roe Websites."

In a declaration in support (PDF) of the plaintiffs' application for a temporary restraining order, their attorney, Karl S. Kronenberger, stated his belief that his "office has exhausted all possible non-judicial means to identify the Roe Defendants."

Adulterysearch.com has responded to the suit on its Note to Law Enforcement and Attorneys page:

Comment on the Arizona lawsuit: the weakness of the arguments and blatant misstatement of the law in the complaint only reaffirm that what we are doing is legal. If you think that what we are doing should not be legal, please contact your elected officials.

Update September 12, 2015: it has come to our attention that the anonymous plaintiffs in the Arizona lawsuit are seeking a temporary restraining order to shut down this website and others, citing "ongoing exposure to irreparable injury" if their information is made available to those who wish to see it. The legal arguments in the application for the TRO are weak (for example, the plaintiffs have not demonstrated success on the merits for a variety of reasons). Nonetheless, if the plaintiffs identify themselves to us, we will remove their information from the database we use. This will negate any alleged "ongoing" harm pending the resolution of the litigation, which we are confident will be in our favor.

The case, number 2:15-cv-01768, is being heard in the United States District Court of Arizona. ®

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