Why everyone – public life or not – should be worried about the Ashley Madison hack

The Ashley Madison hack has exposed a great deal of public people as hypocrites or philanderers.  Among those whose Email addresses have been found include Josh Duggar (one of the Duggar children who also admitted to sexually molesting others), Sam Rader (Christian vlogger), Jeff Ashton (prosecutor during the Casey Antony case) and more.  As such, you would think that the hack would make for ripe material for this blog, which deals with the digital disasters of public officials and employees.

I’d actually like to take a different tact and discuss the broader implications of this hack.

Everyone should be nervous about this hack, regardless of whether or not you ever used the site, because it helped to prove a fundamental truth: digital security isn’t truly a thing.  The Ashley Madison hack is the latest in a series of data hackings, which occur in all walks of life, including the federal government and the IRS.  We live in a frightening society right now, because our data isn’t truly safe.

I have an even more frightening question for you: What’s next?  Supposedly private information is now publicly searchable.  What will be publicly viewable next?  Your search engine history?  Things you’ve looked at while your browser is in incognito mode?  And how far back will these hacks go?  Will things that you did, digitally, decades ago, be used against you in a court of law or public opinion?  Texts you made?  Where will the lines be drawn?

I wrote, earlier this week, about a woman who was forced to withdraw her candidacy for public office after tweets she made four years ago went public.  The tweets were, unquestionably, tactless and offensive.  That being said, they were made when the young woman was 17.  Who among us would like every note, text or comment we said at the age of 17 to be made public?  Where do we decide what’s okay, and what’s not?

Personally, I don’t really care who uses Ashley Madison, public life or not.  It’s someone’s own private business, and unless they are using government equipment, I don’t think it’s any business of mine, or anyone else’s.  Unfortunately, that’s one of the great truths of the digital age: Anything can become everyone’s business.

Tweets and Consequences

Like the blog?  Get the book!  Tweets and Consequences: 60 Social Media Disasters in Politics and How You Can Avoid A Career-Ending Mistake is now available on Amazon for purchase or download.

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