I've downloaded the package. This thing is fascinating to me. I've started some analysis and I'm really hooked. It's exciting, funny, mystifying and sad at the same time from all kinds of different perspectives. It's really struck a nerve not least because I signed up for the hell of it in 2008.
I'm fairly sure that I didn't pay them (but I can't remember) and I have about a year's worth of emails from them. My own analysis about my own involvement is interesting because I can't remember enough about signing up - so I checked my blog from around March of 2008 to try and remember what I was doing when I first started getting the emails. At the time, I was just starting to use social media, including Facebook. It was right around Eliot Spitzer scandal time. I made this video about compartmentalization and social media. FYI, I basically got one AM email a day for a year and I read about 15 of them.
If I could make a prediction, I would say that this kind of breaching is going to get popular, but what's weird is really how inversely I think we care about the information depending upon our animus to the exposed parties. I say so in context of the Eliot Spitzer then and Hilary Clinton now. The more you hate somebody, the more you want potentially embarrassing information about them to be taken seriously with every implication possible.
I probably don't pay enough attention to this kind of thing, but the recent breach of the Federal government's database of top secret clearance applicants is just a real shocker. So part of what I want to know is how quickly somebody with my level of skills can stage up such a hack package and start doing a thorough analysis. I'm going to talk to some attorneys about this too. It's 'discovery' sort of, because now it's out there for 'everyone' to analyze and interpret. Except like with police video, most people don't even know what to look for. So there's that bias confirmation component and the aggregation / crowdsourcing component.
Just Tuesday I was thinking about Trump and politics and thinking about how it is true that who you vote for is private but most people like to talk about it. On the other hand, if you give money to a campaign, it's public, but most people don't like to talk about that.
This is just another reason for me to investigate the ethics of this fascinating moment on our way towards a panoptic society. On the one hand, I like the idea that there is some moral outrage at the facilitation of extra-marital affairs. Firstly in principle, even though it's none of my business, and even though Ashley Madison is just the tip of the iceberg of immoral facilitation. Secondly because of what it means to make such electronically abstracted relationships obviously less meaningful. In other words, regardless of whether or not adultery is going on, it's rather nice to know that people might now tend to do it the old-fashioned way instead of trusting the web too much. As a Luddite humanizing blow, I kind of like the breach. But as a moral exercise, even though I agree more or less with the principle, this breach is far too terroristic. It provides ammo to far too many instigators.
And yet the amount of work one would have to do in order to connect dots and implications is daunting enough such that a lot of innuendo can be dismissed, as the IT providers at Ashley Madison are scrambling to explain to security expert Krebs. One can't reasonably assume that everything that's leaked is real. It would have been trivially easy to put in fake records as if they were real, and if your point were to crush somebody's reputation, say that of this Josh Dugger person, then forging him into the dump is not particularly difficult.
Anyway, since I have a real job, I don't have time to engineer up an actual non-honeypot site that would tell you if your email is in the list, not that I want to know, but it's trippy to know that I could.
It's hard for me to imagine any reasonable public policy emerging from this. Our populist politics are just the sort that will encourage this sort of thing. Furthermore our state of education and irreverence are such that capable, ethical institutions are trusted less than crusading anarchists who want to 'change the world', presumably for the better. The short-sighted ethics of doxing in general are just another shortcut to 'justice' and an example of social media creating 'social justice'. If this becomes an ugly trend, with the 4chan -style juvenile delinquent moral pretentiousness of this hack dragging down millions of probably innocent babies with the stinky bathwater, then don't say I didn't warn you with my tortured analogies.