Careless Talk Costs Lives

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Ashley Madison hack, here are the details:

  • Ashley Madison (“A-M”) is a dating website that specializes in extra-marital affairs.
  • Their business model is likely aimed at men, who are willing to pay for access to available – and presumably attractive – females.
  • Personal Data from A-M was exfiltrated, apparently by an insider who no longer works there according to AM executives.
  • This data includes personal email addresses, names and credit card details of millions of A-M members.
  • A group calling themselves the “Impact Team” have threatened to publish this data unless A-M ceases operations.
  • A-M have not ceased operations.

I am not going to moralize, criticize or look for someone to blame; that’s above my pay grade. I am not going to say how stupid these folks were (they were) or how easy it would have been to avoid giving out personal information (it is). What I will say is that given the number of high-level people who are likely current of former customers of A-M, this information represents the greatest vehicle for extortion that has ever existed in the history of the world.

  • Not every person who signed up for an account with A-M has availed themselves of their services.
  • Not everyone who has paid them money got anything in return.
  • It would be relatively easy to ruin a completely innocent person by inserting their details into the published information.
  • Anyone who pays money to a blackmailer to suppress publication of their information will likely face repeated demands for payment from them or others who happen upon that information in the future.

Like so many of the portents of our time, the existence and success of A-M not the problem. Just like pornography, promiscuity, the marriage strike, or “herbivore culture”, it is but a symptom of the world that we have created for ourselves. We can choose to attack A-M, but they are evidently meeting a need that millions appear to have.It would be easy to dismiss every husband with a wandering eye as a “cheater”, but there are at least two sides to every story – three if you count the truth. Incidentally, why is it that a philandering husband is always vilified and castigated, but the behavior of a cuckolding wife is so often pinned on him as well? But I digress…

When the A-M hack was announced a few weeks ago, it was greeted with much cackling and merriment, mostly from the distaff side. I was a little more sanguine, and opined that the cost of such a disclosure would be measured in lives. So imagine my surprise when I hear that there have been at least two suicides because of the A-M hack…

I’m sick of being right.

Full disclosure: While I am aware of A-M, and have a superficial understanding of how their business works, I have never been a member or signed up for any of their services. Even if I were inclined, their premise – that there are attractive married women who are itching to get a little action on the side with little old me – sounds to good to be true.

And if there is a lesson to be learned here, it is that if is something is to good to be true, it probably is.

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