The real horror behind Ashley Madison

It’s a deep and fiery debate that has many sides and too many personal grievances – is it morally correct to ‘cheat’ on your partner? From the outset I, as millions of others, would argue that it is not. Cheating is betrayal, it is hurtful, it is a total slap to the face to the partner who perhaps naively thought that they had found someone who loved them unconditionally and individually. But then comes the philosophical and ethical army, throwing out such bold enigmas as: “If one is in an abusive relationship and they turn to another for comfort, intimate or not, can it truly be cheating?”

Whilst I wholeheartedly do not condone domestic abuse or any other kind of scenario, I want to assume – for the sake of my post – that the 33 million users who were signed up to the illicit Ashley Madison website were cheating for illicit reasons. The online dating service, founded in 2001 by Avid Life Media, boasts a questionable slogan of: ‘Life is short. Have an affair.’ Rather concise and to-the-point, it does seem to condone adultery for the sake of sex. Or, at least, that is what the general consensus seems to be.

In the FAQ section, I found this:

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As noble and good-hearted as this may look, I would argue that it is enabling. Yes, the individual may be too scared to seek counselling or stand up to their partner, but for the millions who are being unfaithful? This is giving them the power to do so. Humans, as a basic right, have freedom to do (mostly) what they wish with themselves, and the only agreement they break by cheating is the presumed monogamy. It is completely within their right, and instead it falls upon a question of morality and ethics.

There are a dozen sides to every case and story, as I’ve already said, but it is crucial to note and accept that there will be people using the site who are emotionally abused and are looking for a companion. There will be single men and women looking for other singles too – it is not just a dating site for those in relationships or marriages!

What is my overall point? When the hackers, The Impact Team, stole information from the customers of Ashley Madison and threatened to release them, they immediately committed an illegal act. Okay, so Ashley Madison scammed a portion of their customers who paid to have their details deleted. That is atrocious, and shameful on their part. However, the larger issue facing us is the reality that privacy has been breached. 33 million people’s details, including banks and addresses, were released to the public! Can you imagine if someone released 33 millions Facebook users’ details? The outcome would be catastrophic.

We live in a world now where the internet is rapidly expanding, and with its expansion comes the growing intelligence of internet users. Dangers increase and privacy is becoming harder to guarantee. With groups like Anonymous and The Impact Team at large, our very own information is under threat. I know that Anonymous do a lot of good in some areas (a whole other debate), but this incident in particular is a foul breach of personal privacy.

The worst part? It won’t stop. Hackers have the potential to ruin lives, and steal money and morale. There have already been two suicides linked to the Ashley Madison hack, and if their information hadn’t been leaked, they may still be alive today. I am aware that this blog post will cause a stir amongst some of your beliefs and values, but (and if my past self could hear me saying this, he’d probably cringe) I think we should all take a moment to stop condemning those 33 million users. Some, or even the majority may indeed have signed up for illicit reasons – but it is entirely personal and private, and nothing to do with us. What is the crime here is that their personal life, information, relationship problems and even bank details have been exposed.

Ashley Madison is not the villain today – internet hackers are.

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