If you hadn’t heard of AshleyMadison, the site who’s registered tagline is “Life is short, have an affair.” – well, now you have. The company fell victim to an epic hack that exposed the personal information of all 37.5 million affair seeking members.
Much as been said in the media about how sensitive all of this information is, how terrible the hack is, and how potentially damaging it could be to everyone if the list gets out to the general public.
But I think everyone is missing some of the bigger points. Or perhaps they’re all avoiding the discussion because the executives, journalists and reporters all know THEY are on the list and really just want this thing to go away as fast as possible?
Where’d All These People Come From?
First of all, who knew that this site actually had 37.5 Million members! That number is absolutely staggering. Especially considering there are only about 60 million married couples in the US.
If AshleyMadison members are primarily US based and married, that means there is nearly a 100% chance that if you are married and YOU aren’t on the site, your spouse is.
This raises several questions:
- How many people are going to be actively searching to get their hands on that list?
- How will this impact the Private Investigation business?
- What would you pay to know if your spouse is on the list?
- Will this create a black market for seekers and sellers of this information?
- How many fraudulent sites will pop up offering to sell this data, even if they don’t have it?
- Heck… when will Judges start ordering subpoenas for records from the company in divorce cases?
More importantly, what does it say about society that so many people are looking to cheat?
- Is marriage a broken and outdated institution?
- Is the concept of harmonious perpetual monogamy a lie?
When Does the Blackmailing Begin?
Right about now there are 37.5 million people who are nervous for the wrong reason. Everyone is worried about the release of AshleyMadison’s data, but they aren’t thinking about the alternative.
Getting caught cheating, or attempting to cheat, is one thing. Perhaps being on the list could be explained away as, “…well, I heard about the site and registered just out of sheer morbid curiosity…” or “…ok, I did register. But not to cheat – because I got worried that maybe YOU were cheating and I was just trying to figure out if you were on there…”. I’m sure there are a million excuses.
By the way, how funny would it be if BOTH spouses were secretly on the service? With 37.5 million users it HAS to be the case – a lot!
But what happens when compromising photos show up in your email box along with a ransom demand to pay $1,000 worth of bitcoins to some anonymous person, God knows where?
- What happens when some of these people are rich and famous?
- What happens when 1,000,000 or 10,000,000 people get these demands?
- How many are really going to report the crime and make their sins public?
- How long can it go on?
And frankly, how do we know this whole thing isn’t actually an inside job that was the plan from the very beginning. Think about it, it’s brilliant!
Criminal #1: You know what would be fantastic? If we could find some rich and powerful people who are cheating, and blackmail them for like 20 years!
Criminal #2: Oh man, that would be awesome!
Criminal #1: Problem is, it sounds like too much work. First you have to surveil them. Then you have to try and get photos of them in the act. And credit card receipts and names and numbers…
Criminal #2: Yeah, sounds like a lot of work.
Criminal #1: WAIT A MINUTE… what if we offered them a service to just cheat as much as they want as long as they give us their names and credit cards and post their own photos of cheating?
Criminal #2: BRILLIANT!
Where’s the Class Action Lawsuit?
At the end of the day, some would argue that AshleyMadison had data that was even more sensitive than banking records. I mean, for God’s sake they were able to charge people $19 just to delete their accounts. That’s nothing less than extortion.
“Oh, you’ve changed your mind and don’t want those naked photos of you on our site along with damning chats and emails? Ok, that’ll be $19 just to let you delete them.”
It’s unheard of, and this must be the only type of site in the world that can get away with that. Since they clearly know the sensitivity of user data – why wasn’t it encrypted?
What we should have been hearing about was a hack that netted the perpetrators nothing more than a bunch of encrypted data, inaccessible to it’s users. This has been the case with other large hacks. But AshleyMadison was apparently storing everything in clear text format. It’s inconceivable. And unforgivable.
But at the end of the day, what did you expect? It’s called “cheating” because it’s not something you’d want to walk around telling strangers that you do. And when you register on a site with a bunch of strangers and tell them what you’re doing… well, they don’t really give a shit about you.