Taking Privacy Behind The Shed

August 20th, 2015

So you’ve heard about this Ashley Madison leak, right? A group of hackers stole over seven years worth of info from the Ashley Madison website, including personal information of up to 30 million customers.


Ashley Madison is a dating website for married people who are seeking affairs outside their marriage. Despite its hideous premise, it is a website for consenting adults. What happens between people who hook up through Ashley Madison is their own business, even if it goes against their marital bond.


Yesterday, a Twitter account dedicated to outing A. Madison customers from Kentucky turned up. It named names, occupations, Twitter handles and how much was paid for services. Before it was taken down that night for reasons of abuse and harassment, it gained over 7,000 followers.


I wasn’t one of them. I wasn’t a follower or a customer. Still, I had a look. I had a looky-loo like a gossipy hen wondering if anyone I knew was on the list. I’m not proud of myself for looking. Same thing when the Fappening happened. I looked even though the pictures were all stolen. Why do I need to see what Bar Refaeli looks like naked? It wasn’t meant for me to see. And yet I looked, just as many looked.


We’ve been killing our own privacy for a long time. We do it to ourselves so much. A world has been created for us to inhabit, an online world where we present a version of ourselves that doesn’t always correspond to reality. Through it we share what we choose to share with the people we choose to share it with. We are encouraged to share. We learn what we can do and it may even feel like intimate at times. And then some hackers come in and steal everything you’ve done and then want to moralize to you about what you’ve done. Thieves trying to impart wisdom. Who do they think they are? How dare a thief try to give anyone a life lesson?


And yet we’re not really that mad about it. It’s a poetic justice, this A. Madison thing. People who went in to betray their spouses now being betrayed by hackers and a not-impenetrable security system. It’s hard to feel sympathy for people who were specifically looking to do something wrong. “Did you know that Josh Duggar had an Ashley Madison account?” Really, I am shocked! The guy who admitted to molesting four of his sisters also tried to have an affair? Next thing you’ll say is that Charlie Manson smoked pot on occasion. I really can’t believe it.

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