Myers Berstein
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The Ashley Madison Hack: What Other Online Businesses Need to Be Aware Of

The recent leak of the names and other identifying information of 30 million users of the Ashley Madison website has intensified the discussion about privacy on the Internet. The Ashley Madison hack is the latest in a series of notable online data and privacy breaches. The nonprofit Identity Theft Center recently counted 519 data breaches so far this year, which have targeted businesses, government agencies, and other institutions. The result is that nearly 140 million records have been exposed. Some records are more sensitive than others.

Ashley Madison is a website aimed to help married people have extramarital affairs. A hacker group that condemned the company's morals leaked the customer databases to various media and news outlets. Some news outlets have published names, while others have not. It is interesting to note that no 'reputable' news sources have published the names and identifying information of the customers, perhaps in deference to potential privacy and copyright claims.

Regardless of one's views on this issue, this breach brings to light significant areas for weakness for businesses with an online presence. Indeed, both customers and business owners with an online presence need to be wary of privacy issues now more than ever.

In the case of Ashley Madison customers, whose identities are now exposed, the release of the hacked data could have huge personal ramifications. Unlike other data breaches, a connection to Ashley Madison could follower a person for years. Customers thought the choices they made by signing up for and using the website were private, when in fact, they were not. Where does this leave you, the online consumer or business owner?

Ashley Madison's parent company is trying to limit access to the databases through "take down" requests under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Ashley Madison's parent company claims it owns all intellectual property in the hacked data and therefore may use the take down notice to ask that the information be removed from various sites. The Act allows individuals and companies who claim to own a copyright to certain content to have that content removed from the Internet if it is used without their permission. Media and news outlets may take advantage of a process in the Act to respond to requests for a take down notice.

Another effect of the Ashley Madison hack is that the U.S. could look abroad for new ideas about online privacy. The National Constitution Center noted that discussions about the European legal concept of "the right to be forgotten" may also increase. In the European Union, citizens are allowed to ask Google and other search providers to remove search results to unfavorable or embarrassing links. For many in the States, that may sound like a preferable option.

To discuss the necessary web-based precautions your business needs to take to protect its customers, contact the experienced Orange County business lawyers at MYBE Law today.

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