What Good Can Come Out Of The Ashley Madison Hack?


Hey, did you read that Josh Duggar was on the Ashley Madison list? And it wasn’t a fake email address either! He confirmed it!

I know that some people get a feeling of joy or pleasure seeing Duggar suffer more misfortune. That’s nice for them. But with all the genuine suffering that this exposure will be causing innocents, can we at least get something good out of it?

The media are already using it for their headlines, therapists and divorce lawyers will be using it to get new clients. But can we get more out of this hack than media hits and billable hours?

What’s the opposite of Disaster Capitalism? Disaster Socialism? 

We know that some people use disasters to profit, others to push an agenda. “We are going to turn Iraq into a free market paradise using these Heritage Foundation interns!”

I propose we have a couple of items to push on our agenda.

First, increase the importance of privacy in both private governments and corporations. Second, use this data to show the problem with passing judgement on the private lives of ordinary people.

As Glenn Greenwald pointed out in his piece, The Puritanical Glee Over the Ashley Madison Hack,

[None of us should cheer when the private lives of ordinary people are indiscriminately invaded, no matter how much voyeuristic arousal or feelings of moral superiority it provides. We love to think of ourselves as so progressive and advanced, yet so often leap at the opportunity to intervene and wallow around in, and sternly pass judgment on, the private sexual choices of other adults.

But, what are the concrete things we can change beyond trying to change attitudes? How about a focus on data security at the corporate and government level.

Let’s start demanding the organizations that hold our private data have greater accountability to protect it and more liability when it is taken.The massive class action suit against the parent company of Ashley Madison is a start, but not enough.

We also need to demand nationwide reporting of breaches. It’s ridiculous that if you don’t live in a state with mandated reporting the company or organization  never has to tell you about it.

Next we need an agency who actually wants to help us protect our data. But, since the fear is no entity can be trusted, we need to push for the tools to maintain some control over our privacy.

Right now our privacy tools are hard to use and not as strong as they should be.  Our privacy policy rules for corporations are weak. This is bad for everyone except the hackers.

I want easier to use privacy tools on desktops and phones. I want tools that my in-laws can use daily when banking or shopping. I also want better tools my nephew can use when coding. You shouldn’t have to know how to encrypt your own email, but you should understand why you should be doing it.

BTW, it’s important for activists and journalists who want to use this data to understand both the tech and the issues. It’s been reported the illegally obtained data files found on the dark web are filled with Remote Access Trojans (RATs) which provide cybercriminals with unlimited access to infected endpoints. Here’s a link to a story explaining.


Follow the money” Deep Throat
      — All the President’s Men

When someone says this to current journalists I want to snark back.  “1976 called, they want their tagline back.”

 The print media only “follow the money” for stories about once a year, usually for Pulitzer submissions.  But now, post Citizens United, they won’t be doing that on a political story.

But there is some good news.  Someone is using the Ashley Madison data to track down dark money in politics.

My friends at the Center for Media and Democracy saw that since Josh Dugger has already admitted his use of the service, they took the opportunity to go further.

Last week they put out a story about how Koch Brothers Freedom Partners Operation shoveled millions to a conservative Christian group. They laid out the shell corporations, who got it and for what supposed purposes. I can practically hear your eyes glazing over.

But luckily for the news scanning public, the Conservative Christian Group getting the money was led by Josh Duggar! As I predicted, he used the Christian “I’m a sinner, forgive me.” card.

The MSM was able to use the hypocrisy card to run the story. He was a public figure who was also a moralizing hypocrite, so they didn’t have to worry about discussing someone’s private sex lives.  He was all wrapped up in one easy to consume baby-faced moralizing package.

But that is as far at they will take it. They aren’t going to use it to look into the sex and political money connections like the CMD did.

Let me repeat. The media do NOT WANT to stop political money flowing into their coffers. They will only talk about it in the abstract as if there is nothing they can do with it beyond sexy headlines and moralized shaming.

If we can’t stop the data from getting out and want to use this data for good, we have to help the people doing the kind of work that the media will not do

Nobody is going to do this but us.

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