Lessons From Ashley Madison
News commentary: Imagine finding Christ's name in the Ashley Madison data dump.
Story by Shawn Boonstra, Voice of Prophecy for Adventist Review/ image by ericnvntr
You might remember that the service for philanderers made headlines a few weeks ago when hackers compromised their data and threatened to release the names of cheaters to the world unless the website shut down. Ashley Madison did not shut down, so last week, the hackers made good on their threat and started releasing names and personal data — 10 gigabytes’ worth.
Now a couple of Canadian law firms, possibly smelling opportunity, have entered the fray. This past Thursday, Charney Lawyers and Sutts, Strosberg LLP filed a class action suit against Avid Life Media, Ashley Madison’s Toronto-based parent company.
The amount? $578 million. Why? The hack is being described as an unprecedented violation of privacy. The compromised data involves more than mere names and credit card numbers; it involves the public shaming of participants, including a large number of public figures. As writer John Herman put it: “Most leaks of this size don’t implicate people in anything aside from patronizing major companies. This is new territory in terms of personal cost. The Ashley Madison hack is in some ways the first large scale real hack, in the popular, your-secrets-are-now-public sense of the word. It is plausible — likely? — that you will know someone in or affected by this dump.”
But was this really the work of hackers? Cybersecurity expert John McAfee says it was not. In the International Business Times, he wrote: “Ashley Madison was not hacked — the data was stolen by a woman operating on her own who worked for Avid Life Media.” In other words, it was an inside job.
I must admit (as I did in an earlier post) that it’s hard to work up sympathy for the people caught up in this scandal — with the exception of the people about to discover, possibly on a public platform, that their spouses have been cheating. They are true victims. Everybody else? Perpetrators.
There was a passage in the gospel of Luke that used to terrify me as a kid: “He began to say to His disciples first of all, ‘Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops’”(Luke 12:1-3).
I must have been 9 or 10 years old the first time I came across that statement, and it nearly made my pre-pubescent heart stop. Everything? Every secret I’ve ever had will come to light? I imagined a humiliating public experience where angels would literally stand on rooftops, reciting my darkest deeds for the entertainment of just about everybody I knew.
Humiliating. Maybe not Ashley Madison humiliating, but humiliating nonetheless.