I saw your column on Sac Press and thought maybe you can help. I am a customer of Sony’s PlayStation Network for online gaming, recently they had a security breach and Sony notified me that some of the information released to hackers includes my full name, address, phone number, email address, PlayStation user ID and password, and credit card information, just to name a few. I know this info has gotten into the wrong hands due to the huge amount of spam email I am now getting. My concern is primarily with identity theft as my credit card company has stated they are aware of the issue and I have zero fraud liability, but some of my friends may not be so lucky as they used debit cards and I was told that those do not have nearly the same protection. Is Sony liable if my identity is stolen? Can I make them pay for something like a credit freeze to keep the bad guys from buying a car in my name? And what about my friends who were not lucky enough to have a credit card and used a debit card for their online gaming? I don’t even know where to start, can you please help?
Thanks for reading and submitting your question! It appears that the lawsuits for damages against Sony are already beginning. A Massachusetts woman was among the first to file a lawsuit against Sony over a hack into the company’s PlayStation Network video game service. According to the Boston Business Journal, the class-action lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Boston on May 5, 2011. The plaintiff is alleging Sony stored and retained customer data without authorization, failed to maintain a proper firewall, and did not properly encrypt the data it held. The suit also calls the electronics giant out for delaying for almost a week after it knew of the breach, to notify affected customers. You can read a copy of her complaint for more details of the case.
The real question is not whether or not you can file a lawsuit to recover damages, but rather, once you file your lawsuit in court, will you be able to win your case? Well, in order to prevail in court, you will most likely have to prove that actual damages have occurred. So it would depend on if you actually suffer damages from this incident. According to an article written by Mark Foley, lawsuits seeking to recover significant damages based on the loss of, or unauthorized access to, sensitive personal information have not been especially successful for plaintiffs since inconvenience, and threat may be hard to prove in court. Most companies try to alleviate damages by offering to provide identity theft monitoring to affected customers and Sony is no exception.
ABC News is reporting that Sony is now offering 12 months of free identity theft protection to affected customers. Customers have until June 18th to sign up and should be receiving a detailed email soon with information on how to sign up. If you don’t receive your email, I would contact Sony as soon as possible in order to get further details. Ultimately, if your identity is stolen, you can read the law library’s Everyday Law article for tips on what you can do to protect yourself.
Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email firstname.lastname@example.org. If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.