“Ashley Madison is the most famous name in infidelity and married dating,” the site asserts on its homepage. “Have an Affair today on Ashley Madison. Thousands of cheating wives and cheating husbands signup everyday looking for an affair…. With Our affair guarantee package we guarantee you will find the perfect affair partner.”
Until, sometime July 20 2015, the website was hacked:
1. Analyze the problem – online privacy vs infidelity (moral norm)
2. Give the pro’s and cons of each side (read other sources too).
3. Where would you personally side (since this is an academic exercise, let us refrain from judging our peer’s opinions morally, but rather in terms of the exercise of critical thinking basing ourselves on the Ethical theories you have learned.)
Ashley Madison with its old tagline – “Life is Short. Have an Affair.” was actively promoting extramarital affairs through their website. They provided a virtual rendezvous for people who may not be happy or sexually unsatisfied with their partners, or just the forever adventurous. A user who wishes to remove their account needs to pay a certain amount for full deletion. With the kind of business they are running, users of their service expects that their information are safe and expects tighter security for their privacy.
The Impact Team used the hacked data as a hostage to be released to the public if ALM was not immediately shut down. In our standards of morality, being unfaithful to a spouse is an unacceptable act and even a crime in legal grounds. In this perspective, the Impact Team are like the Dark Knight who punished the criminals with their own form of justice.
Fueled by their beliefs of what is right and wrong, the hackers pushed their moral ideals to action. Doing acts that are ethically wrong by hacking and hostaging data, they wanted to put a stop at ALM’s morally questionable operations. From my personal standpoint, I agree to as much as that infidelity is wrong. However, from a computer ethics perspective this is without a doubt unethical.
ALM didn’t budge to the Impact Team’s demands, which resulted to a leak of more than 25GB of data to the public on August 18 and 20. The leaked data included a lot of user information from their names, credit cards, addresses and even sexual fetishes.
The aftermath of the scandalous leak is immense, a $567 million class-action lawsuit against Avid Dating Life and Avid Media were filed by affected users. Besides the damages to the company, users with their data leaked suffered a great deal of humiliation, it may even lead to broken marriages and family. Furthermore, there were also reports of suicide from the affected users.
Not only did the Impact Team committed a crime by intruding ALM’s servers and stealing data. They also disregarded the privacy of the users of ALM. They did not care about the individual damages these people would face – if they may lose their jobs, divorced by their spouses, be hated by their children and/or be ostracized by society.
My personal views align with the Impact Team for this issue. Although the victims of the leak may have their own personal lives ruined, they should be well aware and accountable for the consequences of their actions. Even without a website like Ashley Madison, a person caught cheating will have negative effects to their reputation, marriage and family.