International dating website Ashley Madison, where you can connect with someone who is looking to have an affair, has been exposed this week, along with millions of it’s users.
The online ‘hook-up’ agency, which has been operating for over a decade, is no stranger to controversy thanks to it’s promotion of murky ethics, but now has been caught with it’s pants down.
Hackers this week leaked private information from millions of the websites members, including names, emails and physical addresses.
So let’s get past the fact that these adultery websites actually exist and promote their services with trashy taglines such as ‘Life’s short, have an affair’. How were they thinking that was ever going to be a good idea?
Morally incorrect maybe, possibly illegal given the act of an extramarital affairs is against the law in some countries these websites operate in, but Ashley Madison was never going to have a very reputable brand.
This brand, highly profitable and about to have an IPO launch, is now irretrievably damaged beyond repair and who cares?
What about the personal brand damage caused to users and those close to them?
Now, the excitement of having an affair has always been the fact that you might get caught, so not surprisingly there is little sympathy for exposed members stupid enough to put their personal information on a site like this and think it was safe.
There are however far more distressing consequences.
The leak goes all the way to the Whitehouse, with email addresses from Obamas team, workers at the Pentagon and 15,000 military address listed in the data. Alarmingly here in Australia over 700 government email addresses are included in the list, 90 of them from catholic education domains.
Ashley Madison brand, highly profitable and about to have an IPO launch, is now irretrievable damaged beyond repair and who cares?
It is the massive amount of damage the hack and subsequent leak of information is causing with the destruction of countless marriages, families, jobs and even potential to drive people to take their own lives.
Inevitable blackmailing is now beginning to emerge, with online current Bitcoin being demanded in return for users personal data to be buried.
What the leak has revealed is that many of the users were fake. Even New Zealand Prime Minister John Keys email address was in the list but turned out to be invalid.
Over 90% of members are male, making the hackers allegations that the company running the website created fake female identities look pretty reliable.
The extent of the entire sordid affair and the unraveling of peoples lives, let alone personal brands is almost too difficult to clearly contemplate.
What were the users thinking? What were the hackers thinking? What were the owners of the website thinking?
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