Leave the cheaters in peace: If you poke around the Ashley Madison data, you're aiding and abetting the hackers

Publication Type: 
Other Writing
Publication Date: 
August 24, 2015


When a person’s confidential data is exposed in violation of a legitimate expectation of privacy, it shouldn’t matter whether that person is a saint or a sinner. A privacy invasion is a privacy invasion — and we must rise to defend the victims, whether we like them or not.

Last week, a group of hackers calling themselves the Impact Team made good on last month’s threat to leak the account information of over 32 million members of Avid Life Media’s (ALM) online dating service for married people, Ashley Madison.

Some government and celebrity names seem to be included in the list, but for the most part, the email addresses, partial credit card numbers and addresses exposed belong to private individuals.

This is not some simple act of anti-establishment mischief. It’s a crime, more than one. Breaking into a company’s password-protected system to steal personal information of 32 million individuals is a federal and state crime.

Posting individuals’ financial data and contact information may constitute the crime of aiding and abetting identity theft. Federal and state law enforcement should work on finding and prosecuting the hackers.

Our collective responsibility doesn’t stop there, though. Unsurprisingly, people are yielding to their basest urges — and rushing to sort through the stolen ALM data to hunt for embarrassing information. This has been made even easier by people who took the hacked data and created searchable databases and even a customized Google Map of users’ addresses.

Some scalps have already been claimed — of a reality TV show star and a Louisiana political operative (who claims to have signed up only to conduct opposition research on potential foes).

Everyone gleefully engaging in this as though it’s a sport is in a small way encouraging criminal activity.


Read the full piece at the New York Daily News