Pull up your pants, gents. The game is up.
On Wednesday, an organization known as Impact Team released the names of 37 million users of Ashley Madison, a dating site explicitly for married men and women to cheat on their spouses. More people than the entire population of Canada awoke to find that their extramarital affairs were public for anyone with a mastery of Google to discover.
You can’t claim to support privacy, then cheer when an invasion of privacy exposes a bunch of people whose behavior you don’t like.
Today, the fallout continues to rain down. Ashley Madison is in shambles as its executives struggle in vain to play damage control. Cheaters on Reddit are wringing their hands over their keyboards and pleading for help. The infamous Josh Duggar, who helms an organization that aims to “champion marriage and family,” got caught with an account. Get me some welding goggles, the hypocrisy is shining so brightly it burns.
If you have a single vengeful bone in your body, it’s news that’s hard not to fist pump. Except these guys are victims.
Scumbags, too, I agree. But victims nonetheless of an invasion of privacy. And before you high-five the righteous hackers who cracked open a can of infidelity for all the Internet to ogle, realize it might be you they come for next time.
Privacy is a lot like free speech. You can’t claim to advocate free speech and then cheer when someone censors a book you don’t like. And you can’t claim to support privacy, then cheer when an invasion of privacy exposes a bunch of people whose behavior you don’t like.
Remember the obnoxious finger waggers who chided that we shouldn’t worry about the NSA if we have nothing to hide? The self-righteous prudes who chastised the victims of stolen nude photos for daring to have ever been naked in front of a camera? That’s you now if you’re reveling in the afterglow of the Ashley Madison attack.
I’m no sympathizer with anyone who cheats on a spouse. Each of them deserves the bright-red stew of shame they now find themselves boiling in, regardless of how they were exposed. But releasing the information of 37 million people who thought they were conducting business in private online sets a horrendous precedent. Today, it’s a dating website for cheaters and we all laugh. Tomorrow, maybe it’s the names of anyone who has ever had an abortion in the United States. Or how much money you make each week, or your social security number and your home address. Or maybe all 4.5GB of your Gmail inbox will be splayed across the Internet for all to read.
No matter how much you insist you don’t have to hide — no matter how little you actually have to hide — we all have the right to privacy. And we should be leery of anyone who would seek to take it from us, whether it’s hackers with good intentions or government bureaucrats with crummy intentions.
So stop sneering, put away your indignation, and for Christ’s sake take that sticky note with your password off your monitor. Otherwise you, like the shamelessly two-faced rodent Mr. Duggar, might be the one stewing in hypocrisy when the next password dump falls.
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