What you don’t know about the Ashley Madison leaked emails

STOP. Before you start searching the leaked Ashley Madison information for emails of people you know, read this. There’s something you should know.

What you don't know about the Ashley Madison leaked emails. Original photo by pathdoc on Fotolia.

Leaked data from the website Ashley Madison, and it’s sister site, Established Men (both owned by Avid Life Media), have been making its rounds on the Internet over the past couple of days. I’m not linking to those websites here. We’re all adults, you know how to use Google, right? Good, moving on.

For those not aware, both websites offer users a way of connecting with others for various degrees of relationships and include sexual encounters for those who are married. With the tag line, ‘Life is short. Have an affair’, Ashley Madison currently boasts a membership of just under 40 million globally.

After the leaked data was released, Internet entrepreneurs were quick to turn this event into something they could make money off of by uploading all of the emails listed into their databases then offering the public a way to quickly check if their loved ones, or exes etc, were on this list by simply entering in an email address.

Where do they make their money? Well, the site will pop up telling you if the email you are checking is clear, or if there should be reason for suspicion, but that is all it will tell you. Then they will graciously offer their investigative services that you can pay for. If you don’t want to pay, then you can just sit there and fester with the ‘what ifs’.

My issue isn’t so much about that, as it is about the information that was stolen from the Ashley Madison companies.

Why?

Because today I received an email from a friend of mine telling me that his name was listed as being leaked among the emails found on the Ashley Madison account.

And this is the interesting part about the Ashley Madison leaked emails

My friend happens to be a writer. In 2006, he was following up on a story that included him going to Ashley Madison to get more information. There isn’t a lot of information on the home page (other than a woman telling you to be quiet like you’re in a library or something) and to get past the first page on Ashley Madison, you need to log in or enter your email and a couple of simple details. This creates an account for you.

So, congratulations hackers, in your blind determination to take down the lowest of the low of society, you’ve managed to catch someone who was doing his job almost 10 years ago and never went back to the point where he had completely forgotten about the site, until this week.

You’ve played judge and jury (you managed to skip the prosecution and the defense because that is usually where the logic and understanding comes in), and you systematically hung everyone who ever made it past the first page no matter what they were looking for on the site.

Now I also happen to know the wife of this writer, and she laughed when we talked about what had happened. Then it dawned on us, it might not just be jilted parties who will be searching the database for email addresses. What if it was a potential or current employer? What if my friend wanted to run for public office? What if he became a celebrity of sorts?

This leak now carries repercussions that many haven’t even begun to consider yet.

Now, I’m not stupid, I know not everyone on this list is innocent. I know the majority are not innocent. There are many who will be answering for some horrible choices they’ve made.

But here is where it can be easy to look down your nose and begin judging (that never happens on the Internet, right?).

In addition to the leak this week, we also saw Josh Duggar apologize for so many wrong things, and one of them was ‘being unfaithful’ after it was posted online that he had a paid account on Ashley Madison.

So now we have a potential poster-child for Ashley Madison, someone we can all picture when we hear about leaked emails from the Ashley Madison account. Someone we can rake over the coals because, face it, we already have an Internet hate-on for the guy because everything he does is our business. And now he has become the face of every leaked email; even my friend’s.

It’s easy to fall into the Internet hole where we climb up on our high horses, look down at everyone on the list from our glass houses and start hurling those stones all over the place. Lumping every email address together as one giant perverted, child molesting, adulterer(ress) is a huge mistake. So think twice before you jump the gun and stamp ‘GUILTY’ on every listed email address you come across.

To put this into perspective a little more, my friend had done his research on the site almost a decade ago. Do you even realize how much in a life changes in 10 years?

Well let’s look at some possible scenarios.

Up first, let’s look at the plight of the horny teenager. No really, they exist. I saw one in its natural habitat about 20 years ago. Seeing an ad for, and visiting a site like Ashley Madison is probably a pretty popular thing to do when you are sorting through everything that comes with those crazy adolescent years. Many go to look, to learn (I didn’t say it was a good place to learn, only that it’s happening), and to answer some questions that they are definitely not asking their parent(s) about. Hello, awkward!

Fast forward 10 years and this teenager has been married for a few years, expecting their first child and madly in love with their significant other. Long gone are the curious years, and all of the sudden their email comes up as suspicious. Don’t worry former horny teenager, you’re not alone.

Or this — how many people stopped by Ashley Madison in the last 10 years (or more), curious about what is behind that little ‘see your matches’ button on the front page only to realize that it wasn’t what they were looking for and never went back? Congratulations, you’ve now earned a spot among the damned.

Ever had a nagging feeling that your significant other was on Ashley Madison so you went on to look around? You’re our next winner on “Who Wants to be an Adulterer?” because you’ll be on that list too.

How about if you are a journalist, writer, or someone working in a capacity that required you at any point to research sites like Ashley Madison. There you go scumbag.

Or what about those who are in legitimate open relationships (save your breath, there is such a thing). What consenting adults do within the parameters of their own marriage, whether with their partner included, or with the blessing of their partner, is really no ones business. If you feel the need to judge, just see my paragraph about people in glass houses and shut up.

People go online to find what they are looking for because it gives them an added level of security while they are deciding who to meet. Personally, I think it’s better then going out on your own at night looking for a sexual encounter. I met my husband on a dating site because all I did was work and I didn’t want to date someone at work. I had my share of creepy emails that I could easily pass on because I was alone, in the safety of my home. You try getting out of a bad date face to face.

Before you go off on a long-winded tangent in the comments, I am not defending those who lied and cheated, or worse I’m sure. I am standing up for people that were placed on those lists who really shouldn’t be listed. It is not our job as a society to judge the intentions of those email addresses against what we deem to be right or acceptable.

Ashley Madison painted a giant target on themselves with their tagline (and apparently their poor security measures) and now many of their users are paying the price for it. Because of this leak, confidence will be broken, business and personal reputations will be shattered, and marriages will end.

I’m just saying it may not always be for the right reasons.

Consider sharing if you hadn’t considered this perspective.

Sheri Landry

Sheri publishes, and writes at This Bird’s Day where she shares all of the thoughts in her head without the voices. Sticking mainly with content for Canadians, Sheri shares family stories, product information and anything that fits into her (and her family’s) daily activities.

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