There seems to be this gleeful reaction to all of the cheaters who were utilizing the services of the Ashley Madison website getting what was coming to them. I can understand the schadenfreude of snickering at their expense, but let's look a bit deeper into the impact this will have, and into whether the actions of the cheaters warranted what happened or the reactions of the general public.
For those who are perhaps unaware, the website AshleyMadison.com was attacked by hackers who stole presumably all of their users' account information, and threatened to release it to the public if Ashley Madison didn't shut down their site by a specific date. When Ashley Madison refused to shut down, or failed to do so, the hackers did as they had threatened they would. All of the users' account information, including names, screen names, email addresses, and portions of credit/debit card information, among other details, have now been made public.
So, what happens with these alleged cheaters now? Most people seem to be thinking that they'll get what's coming to them, and perhaps they will, as their relationships potentially fall apart. I want to be clear that I don't condone cheating. I also, though, feel that it does happen sometimes, and that under certain circumstances, it's better that the partner or spouse be left blissfully aware, at least as far as maintaining the relationship is concerned. Especially if it was a one-time occurrence of cheating. Now, I'm disinclined to believe, though, that the users of this site were one-time cheaters. It's more likely that they were repeat offenders. So, maybe they got what was coming to them.
Let's look at the collateral damage, though. Let's look at the partners and spouses of these cheaters, who now have the heartbreaking news that the person that they had trusted all of this time is not trustworthy. Let's also remember that families may be torn apart by all of this, which means kids will have to experience their parents arguing and potentially divorcing.
Is all of this the fault of the hackers? No. It's the fault of the cheaters who took their relationships for granted. But since this hacking thing affects more than just the cheaters, I can't delight in their misery.
Here's something else to consider, though: These records have been made public. Not just made available to the spouses and partners, but to neighbors, friends, family, employers, service providers... everyone. How is it any of my business if, say, a neighbor of mine is banging some other woman while he has a wife at home? How is it an employer's business that one of their staff is screwing around on her husband? It's not. But it is available - and available in searchable databases online. So, if you were to find one of these databases, you could simply look up any friend or family member's name and see if they've been naughty.
All of that aside, why are we presuming that all of the members of that site were actually cheating? I find it difficult to believe that every single member of that site was even in a relationship. Some might like the fantasy of the risk of sneaking around on someone. Some might be single, themselves, while looking to fuck someone who is in a relationship. And while that's not all that ethical or moral, it's not exactly the same as being the person who is in a relationship, who is breaking a commitment to monogamy. But what about people who are in open relationships, and their partner knew they were on that site? Should they have the same consequences as all other users? By consequences, I mean their information being publicly accessible.
There are other potential risks here. The hackers also were able to access the users' login info. While the passwords were encrypted, it's not inconceivable that they could be decrypted. Many people use the same login information for multiple websites, including banking websites. I know some people are of the mindset that, if you're stupid enough to do that, then you get what you deserve. I'm not of that mindset. And really, neither are you, unless it's someone other than yourself suffering the consequences of an absentminded decision. If you left your keys in your car and ran into your house for just a moment to grab something and returned to see that your car had been taken, you would not throw your arms in the air and say, "Well, I guess I deserved that." You'd be pissed off. And remember that these bank accounts might not belong solely to the cheater, but to the couple. Hopefully everyone effected was smart enough to change their passwords... for everything.
Gleefully snickering about all of this is only a logical response if you only see the cheaters as the victims here. There's a bigger picture, though, and this will damage a lot of families. Again, the cheaters caused the damage, which the hackers helped facilitate. I'm not blaming the hackers for what's happening, but they certainly aren't helping matters.
The cheaters should have never cheated. Whether they get what they deserve or not, doesn't mean that watching families fall apart is a good thing. Watching families self-destruct isn't a spectator sport.