In an email blast date-stamped at 2:47 p.m. on Friday, September 13, 2019, the ever-shrinking email giant Yahoo! Incorporated has announced “a pending class action settlement.” Long story short, the Friday the Thirteenth message reported that Yahoo (I’m eliminating the ! for now) has been roped into litigation which, if finalized, will require the company to shell out an eye-popping $117.5 million to customers who can document financial harm stemming from a series of data breaches occurring from 2012-2016.
These breaches (not to be confused with the utilitarian trousers worn by farmers and other honest laborers) were perpetrated by “malicious actors” who repeatedly broke into Yahoo’s system and acquired personal data. Depending on the date of the incident, between 32 million and up to three billion user accounts were compromised with the cyber-thieves filching customer “names, email addresses, telephone numbers, birth dates, passwords, and security questions and answers.”
So beware, because now some Russian oligarch or Nigerian street vendor or North Korean despot knows that the name of your first pet was Nigel.
I hasten to add that these assaults on customer data are serious and not to be taken lightly. The good news is twofold (maybe):
- The breaches have been sealed by several thousand Dutchmen sticking tens of thousands of stubby fingers in Yahoo’s leaky dike.
- IF you were harmed by these malicious incursions, you MAY BE eligible for financial compensation.
And, if IF’s and MAYBE’s, were asses and horses then beggars would ride.
Curious, I read the entire Yahoo email and then began clicking on the lynx (see what I did there) and soon I was falling down a rabbit hole of legalese that would make a Yale Law School graduate dance a jig while simultaneously crossing the eyes and frying the brains of the university’s liberal arts majors.
In other words, good luck hacking your way through the laborious process of documenting and submitting a claim for compensation. Probably few lay people will bother, which is undoubtedly the intent of the convoluted process. Only a lawyer will be able to complete the process and then only one who was paying strict attention in his or her freshman class of LAW-101, or ‘Through the class action suit with gun and camera.’
Meanwhile, it’s not yet a sure thing that Yahoo will be shelling out even a nickle of the vast proposed settlement because everything is dependent on a hearing scheduled for “1:30 pm on April 2, 2020, in Courtroom 8 of the U.S. Courthouse, 280 South 1st Street, 4th Floor, San Jose, CA 95113.”
Even now, lawyers are camping out in a line that stretches from the steps of the San Jose U.S. Courthouse and around the block until the growing string of pup tents and sleeping bags rivals the crowd that waited for days outside the ticket office at Chicago’s Soldier Field to watch The Grateful Dead in concert on July 9, 1995.
And that Chicago crowd would have been even bigger if fans had realized that it would be Jerry Garcia’s final show. The group’s fabulous front-man died in August 1995, at 53, a few months after Yahoo launched in the early spring of 1995. Thank God he didn’t live to see the fledgling company stumble into their current mess, or to experience the ubiquitous perversion of email for that matter.
And yes, in case it isn’t obvious, I’m still one of the few remaining Yahoo mail subscribers. How long have I had my account? Let me put it this way, I recently inverted my email inbox to put the oldest message first and there it was: my first-ever email message, sent to my colleague. I won’t reveal the date but I’ll not soon forget the contents. It read as follows:
“Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.”*
[Audible sigh.] Ah, those indeed were the days: before malicious actors, before class action suits, and long before lawyers were advertising on television. So good luck to those hardy lawyers, camping out to be first in line if and when Yahoo fills the litigation trough with millions of dollars. This would be a fine place to insert a lawyer joke, if I had one, which I do:
Question: What do you call a busload of lawyers going over a cliff?
Answer: A good start.
*P.S. For non-history buffs, the phrase “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you” was allegedly the message which Alexander Graham Bell uttered to his assistant in 1876. As a way of testing his new invention, the telephone, Mr. Bell sent Mr. Watson to another room and summoned him back without shouting. Incidentally, the cell was discovered some years earlier in 1665 by Robert Hooke, but no one thought to combine them until centuries later.