Yesterday hackers dumped 10 gigs of personal info from “life is short, have an affair” dating site Ashley Madison. Twitter’s first reaction is to crack wise about divorce. Ha ha.
While security researchers continue to parse the hack and pundits wonder about what the attack on a company’s “morals” means to the future of data privacy, Twitter is a bed of schadenfreude. Consumed with the idea that the revelation of infidelity (or the mere suggestion of it, since you can sign up on Ashley Madison without ever actually using it) equals instant divorce, users are quick to jump right on the separation bandwagon:
The Tweets in this vein continue to pour in on the #ashleymadisonhack tag. More original Tweets choose to question the whole institution of marriage—which Ashley Madison’s very existence, let alone unmasking, might suggest is flawed. But they are few and far between:
Regardless of your options on marriage, the immediate urge to laugh and joke about the possibility that relationships and families are about to be torn apart feels like a strange twist in the hack saga. Many people have little sympathy for cheaters—so aim your hilarity and scorn at them, and maybe don’t celebrate a bloody legal process that has the potential to upend and destroy lives.
So funny. So original. Human misery always makes me laugh.
But what’s really disturbing about all these tee-hee gifs is that they’re distracting us from talking about what it means to splash out private data for everyone’s consumption. This is the first data leak that’s been treated as entertainment, rather than a horror show. Mario Aguilar equates the Ashley Madison hack with “The Fappening” release of naked celebrity pictures last year. But while “The Fappening” was greeted with widespread condemnation and outrage on behalf of those whose data was stolen, the response to Ashley Madison’s leak is that anyone who would use such a service deserves infamy and to expect the implosion of their family.
The majority of the social Internet’s instinct was to delight in what they saw as “karmic retribution” and to crack wise about divorce—not to question extremely serious implications for the future of privacy and the ethics of hacking a company and exposing customers because their business model is unsavory. This sets an unsettling precedent.
Besides, giggling about flush attorneys is a waste of space when you could be making far more clever, topical observations.