B.C. man files 23andMe data breach class action suit

A British Columbia man has filed a class action lawsuit against genetic testing service 23andMe, following a large-scale data breach earlier this month.

The lead plaintiff agreed to speak with CityNews on condition of anonymity, given this breach deals with highly sensitive personal information.

“It’s not a very nice feeling,” the man told CityNews of learning about the data breach. “I think it’s feeling naked and exposed at a next level that I guess this digital era is bringing us to.”

Reports have indicated the apparent hacker involved acquired access to millions of accounts and tried to sell user data on the dark web.

Adding to the man’s discomfort, he says he had purchased 23andMe kits for family members and friends, which is part of why he’s decided to take legal action.

“The fact that I know the other people who were breached is unnerving to me,” the man said during an interview.

“They’ve been told and e-mailed by the company they are part of the data breach and their stuff is comprised. My wife, her kid, aunt, a couple of friends, cousins, it just comes back on me, because I’m hyping it up. ‘It’s really cool. You get some cool health information or some cool ancestry information.’ Insight that people generally don’t have about us per se.”

In filing this class action at BC Supreme Court, the plaintiff wants to ensure other Canadians affected are compensated financially, among other remedies.

“Genetic data is the most significant piece of information that defines and identifies us as human beings, in the literal meaning of the words,” lawyer Sage Nematollahi with KND Complex Litigation said in a statement to CityNews. “The data breach that appears to have affected 23andMe’s customers is an uncomfortable example of privacy breaches that can have extremely far reaching consequences on citizens.

“This situation makes it even more clear than ever that corporations who accumulate large troves of data on consumers must exercise heightened cybersecurity awareness and data protection practices. We believe this proposed class action will help enforce the privacy interests and rights of Canadians, and will help promote accountability across the Canadian consumer markets, especially amongst technology corporations that deal with Canadians’ health information.”

KND Complex Litigation and YLaw Group are the firms representing the lead plaintiff in this class action suit, which has not been certified.

A spokesperson for 23AndMe responded to a CityNews request by saying the company cannot comment on ongoing litigation.

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