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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

You Can Search the Ashley Madison Data Hack But You Probably Shouldn't

Posted By on Wed, Aug 19, 2015 at 12:10 PM

click to enlarge SCREENSHOT
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Hackers have apparently released 9.7 gigabytes of customer data stolen from, the self-described "world's leading married dating service for discreet encounters." 

Although some were initially skeptical of the data's authenticity, security experts now seem to agree that the leaked data is real. The data includes 36 million email addresses as well as user names, passwords, and credit card information. 

The data was stolen by a team of hackers last month. The hackers claimed to be angered by Ashley Madison's promise to completely scrub users' information, for a $19 fee. The data was not actually scrubbed, the hackers said, and so they promised to release unless Avid Life Media (the owner of Ashley Madison and another site, shut down Ashley Madison and Established Men permanently. 

While the main files are on the dark web, people have already set up websites where you can search to see if a certain email address is included in the hack:
So yes, you can now look up whether you, or your partner, or your parents, or your ex, or your boss, is part of the Ashley Madison leak. But you probably shouldn't. 

First of all, apparently Ashley Madison didn't verify email addresses (you know, that thing where a website sends you an email after you sign up for an account to make sure it's actually you). That means a decent number of the people who will pop up in searches may very well have been victims of a prank or mix-up of some sort. 

Second of all, this is gross and a huge invasion of privacy of a huge number of people, and while I don't want to judge people for wanting to know if their partners are cheating on them, it's definitely none of our business if someone else is cheating on their own partner. 

Chances are nothing that you find in the data is going to make you happier or your relationships stronger. It could make you very sad.

It could also invite you to participate in one of America's worst pastimes: passing judgment on other people's relationships without any knowledge of whether those people are lying to their partners or not

It would be great if we could try to avoid playing that game with this leak. 

Meanwhile, if you've been using Ashley Madison yourself, now's probably a good time to change your credit card number. 

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About The Author

Julia Carrie Wong

Julia Carrie Wong's work has appeared in numerous local and national titles including 48hills, Salon, In These Times, The Nation, and The New Yorker.


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