Is it okay to hack a website if it’s for a good cause? Does privacy supersede decency? In a world where public shaming has become commonplace, should we view the hackers of marital cheating site Ashley Madison as heroes or villains?
There are plenty of people, married or not, who believe that this was a “righteous hack.” They willingly condemn those who were members on the site, most of whom were searching for extra-marital extra-curricular activities. Infidelity is one of the most emotionally disastrous ethical crimes that one can commit. It destroys families. It destroys lives. Does that make hacking the site and publicly shaming those who used it acceptable.
Under nearly all other circumstances, I would be completely opposed to both hacking and public shaming. Both practices, even when done with good intentions, normally do more harm than good. In the case of hacking, it can create the type of vulnerabilities that can affect others. For example, the fact that people in both the White House and Congress were on the list of subscribers should terrify every American. Husbands and wives will go to extremes to protect information about infidelity and the desire to keep their activities a secret could compromise them to influence from interested parties.
In other words, it’s not out of the question that state secrets or access to sensitive information could have been traded for relief from the revelation of their attempted or successful affair hunts.
Even with that knowledge, I’m still leaning towards the idea that this was a good thing. The site is finished. Anyone who was using the site is terrified that they will be exposed if they haven’t been exposed already. Anyone who was considering it will now have to find different methods of cheating. The repercussions will be felt for some time. Families will be hurt. Secrets may be compromised. Hackers are getting glorified. The list of bad things is long.
The list of positives is isolated and short, but it’s worth it. The horrendous, sinful site is going to die and active cheaters are exposed. It may sting, but it’s like a necessary shot of moral antibiotics. The sting will fade but an illness has been defeated. For now.