One of the most spectacular incidents involving cyber security and data breaches has been unfolding since mid-2015. The network intrusion and blackmail of Avid Life Media, the Canadian internet company that owns and operates the infamous Ashley Madison dating website, clearly illustrates the dangers of data theft and the new dimensions of cybercrime in the 21st century.
The Ashley Madison data breach should be of special interest to family lawyers for various reasons, one of them being that it presents a good opportunity for online law firm marketing. The bottom line for family law practitioners is that the Ashley Madison data breach has resulted in numerous divorce proceedings and custody cases filed by clients whose decisions to retain counsel were based on internet searches about the case.
Ashley Madison and the Law
Ever since the initial reports of the Ashley Madison hack came to light in 2015, online news coverage of the incident hasn’t stopped. Attorneys from the United States and Canada have appeared on television news broadcasts as subject matter experts explaining the legal ramifications of this case, and the topics of divorce, child custody, and alimony have been widely discussed.
In February 2016, the North Carolina Lawyer Assistance Program published an interesting blog post detailing the legal aftermath of the Ashley Madison scandal, which specifically mentioned three major stages:
1 – Class action lawsuits against Avid Life Media, which was surprisingly founded by an attorney who work represented professional athletes. The basis of these lawsuits include breach of privacy claims.
2 – Would-be extortionists searched the publicly available data of exposed cheaters and demanded cash to prevent the widespread publication and online shaming. Some of these blackmail attempts resulted in law enforcement investigations, and thus some criminal defense attorneys were busy.
3 – Family law firms started to receive lots of inquiries about divorce filings just two weeks after the incident was reported. One attorney in Virginia explained that he was interviewing up to 10 prospective clients a day.
Ashley Madison Searches
At the peak of the Ashley Madison scandal, search engine giant Google reported up to a million queries per day. Although the search volume has decreased since then, the case was still making the news just before Christmas 2016, when the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement agreement with Avid Life Media for $1.6 million.
Many of the searches related to Ashley Madison are from people who either know or suspect that their spouses were part of the leaked database; these are people who would like to weigh their options with regard to dissolution of marriage.
Family law professionals who stand to gain the most from the Ashley Madison fiasco are those who feature content related to it. This could be in the form of blog posts following the case or a section that explains what people should do if their loved ones are on the database, or if their own information has been compromised.
As can be expected, the most effective content should be informative and technical; for example, what would be the best course of action if a prenuptial agreement was in place, what if there is no clear evidence of cheating, how realistic is the prospect of alimony, and other similar topics.
Read More: Protecting Your Online Identity