Sunday, July 26, 2015

No Sympathy For Ash Mad?

So, infidelity-encouraging and enabling website Ashley Madison was hacked. Private customer information was stolen, some of it was made public, and the hackers (known as Impact Team) have threatened to release everything if the company is not shut down. A refrain I’ve been reading a lot on social media is, “I have no sympathy,” mostly from people who remain blissfully unaware of what they are endorsing, condoning and congratulating.

Where some see karmic justice being served, I see a violation of people’s privacy. Plain and simple.

I understand where the non-sympathizers are coming from. Ashley Madison is a dating website for people who are already in a committed relationship. Because “relationships change over time,” as their spokesperson said in a commercial I saw years ago. “Life is short, have an affair,” is their current slogan. The victims of this cyber terrorism, as AM is calling it, are married or otherwise committed men and women looking to cheat on their spouses or significant others.

Another clear-cut case of boo right in the hoo. If all those allegedly thousands of home-wreckers are exposed, they are getting what they so richly deserve, right?


This is not a black and white issue of villains getting their comeuppance. It is, as I said earlier, a violation of privacy. It is theft. It just happens to be the theft of private information of people we are only too happy and quick to judge. If the victims here had been Red Cross blood donors, or a list of people who’d contributed to charity, the hackers would be the bad guys, no question.

Now, the opposite could also be stated: if someone hacked the bank accounts of the head honchos at Goldman Sachs and redistributed that wealth Robin Hood-style to the poor, I wouldn’t be nearly so bothered. It would still be theft, and technically wrong, but would I consider it “wrong”? Or karmic justice? A lot of people consider Edward Snowden a hero because of the information he brought to light regarding Homeland Security. I tend to think there is a world of difference between exposing secret government surveillance on its citizens, and exposing all the people who have a profile on a cheating website. The assumption seems to be that everyone on Ashley Madison is a scumbag. Are they? A good question, but not a relevant one.

Also irrelevant are the hackers’ reported motives. They say the purpose of their attack was to address a lie in AM’s services. For a $19 fee, they will wipe a customer’s information and history from the site. The hackers say they do no such thing, that the option doesn't actually work. Are the hackers heroes for putting AM on notice? Maybe they are. That doesn’t change the fact that they stole information. If they make that information public, a lot of people will be hurt.

But they’re cheaters, Tim! Cheaters!

So what? What they do in their bedrooms or online is nobody’s business but theirs and their significant others. The cheated have a right to know that their partners are unfaithful, but would they want the whole world knowing their business?

“Up next to give his projections for the next fiscal year is Johnson, who as we all know has a spouse who’s cheating on him.”

“Wow, Cheryl, your designs for this new jet engine are almost as impressive as the designs your husband has on other women!”

“I hope these investments are more secure than your vows to your life partner!”

No, I can't imagine they'd want that information going public either.

Is Ashley Madison guilty of the fraud the hackers accuse them of? Maybe. If so, will they change their policies for the better? Possibly. Am I wrong for having sympathy for the victims of this cyber crime? Absolutely! At least, that’s what I’m sure many people will think and/or say. And they will likely interpret this post as an endorsement for infidelity. It isn’t, but I am being Hitler-adjacent once more. At least this time I’m prepared for the potential fallout.

Which is more than I can say for the members of Ashley Madison!