Ashley Madison: Protecting Those We Dislike
Recently, the site Ashley Madison was hacked and users’ personal data posted publicly (though much of this has been removed due to Ashley Madison’s use of DMCA claims to take the content down.) Because the site caters to married people seeking extra marital sex (probably) without communicating this desire to their marital partners, this seems to have led to more humor than sympathy, at least based on Distractify and suchlike articles that show up on my news feed. Facebook God said SMITE about it, Dealbreaker says the users are at fault for being stupid, and CNN has a headline calling it Christmas in July* for divorce lawyers.
I am uncomfortable with what I see as the level of humor and “well, they are adulterers and also stupid so why do we care” attitude that I am largely seeing as a response to this. Not only am I not a fan of shaming and policing people for sex things (we have quite enough of that as it is), stealing people’s information from computers is illegal. I’m okay nonetheless with stealing data from our government (particularly when that government is violating our fourth amendment rights) but stealing from individuals is not nearly as justifiable. Even if the individuals are doing something that is nasty. Laws aren’t much good if they fail to protect even the people we don’t like.
“Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.” ~Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons
“I will protect even those I hate, so long as it is right.”~Brandon Sanderson, Words of Radiance
Yes, there is a suggestion that the hacker group Impact that is taking credit for this is upset about Ashley Madison charging $19 to erase personal data from the site and then not actually doing it, because that’s not cool. However, an appropriate response to that would be to, say, delete their data. Or, more legally, sue. With a claimed user base of 37 million, surely enough claimants could be found who were willing to be seen as users of the site that it could be done, and it’s a much better approach than exposing a lot of individuals to unpleasantness as, for example, blackmail, and in the case of people unfortunate enough to work for religious organizations, job consequences.
Sure, cheating on spouses is not honorable, but it’s an age old problem (with age old associated humor, at least if Chaucer and Boccaccio are any guide), and in most places it’s not illegal. I don’t really know why it’s such an age old problem, though my off the cuff speculation would involve:
- Maintaining a relationship over time can be really hard. Also monogamy is not for everyone.
Marriage is promoted as one of the goals of adult life, including official lauding of its ultimacy by the Supreme Court, and laws are usually designed to make it easy to marry and hard to divorce. Waiting periods for divorce are much longer than the same for marriage in many states, if a waiting period of marriage is even mandated at all. There can also be a stigma about divorce, since I heard growing up that divorce was for people who just ran into one problem and quit and back in the good old days (TM) people stuck with it and worked on problems.
- Marriage still all too often means rigid gender roles and uneven division of labor, which is just bad for people.
Not that this makes cheating on a spouse more honorable, but a good public shaming is unlikely to help with any of these problems. Or, for that matter, make people less likely to cheat.