So the Ashley Madison site, designed to hook up people who want to commit adultery, was hacked, leading to the release of data about some of the website’s 30 million customers (including already disgraced “family values” activist Josh Duggar).
This has created some indignation about the hackers’ “public shaming” of would-be adulterers. But the fear of public shaming has kept people in line across all cultures for millennia, enforcing the external morality that is necessary for social order (a.k.a. “the first use of the Law”). The internet has promised to get around that with total secrecy and anonymity, but the web isn’t as secret and anonymous as people assume.
So do you consider the Ashley Madison hacks to be egregious violations of privacy, or a fitting outing of cheating husbands and wives?
The public shaming of Ashley Madison’s affair-seeking users proved you don’t have to be a Kardashian to have your private life made public. The Toronto police and Ashley Madison want the hackers who released that information to be the ones in hot water.
To increase the chance of that happening, Ashley Madison’s parent company, Avid Life Media, offered $500,000 on Monday to anyone providing information leading to the arrest of those involved.
Hackers calling themselves the Impact Team first revealed in July they had stolen information from the site, including data on more than 30 million Ashley Madison patrons, who sign up with the goal of having extramarital affairs.
The cyber attackers threatened to release the embarrassing data if the website didn’t shut down. Ashley Madison refused, and so the hackers delivered on their threat last week, upending the lives of people who’d counted on the site’s confidentiality.
While it’s all happened on the Internet, there have been very real effects. In a press conference on Monday, Toronto police said they suspect two suicides were related to the leak. They also believe the hack led to a few attempts of extortion from the outed users.