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Monday 18 December 2017

Hackers claim to provide a service - but really they are destroying families

'Committing adultery is not admirable but are online blackmail and public shaming any better?'
'Committing adultery is not admirable but are online blackmail and public shaming any better?'
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

We love a good old-fashioned witch hunt. And this week, it's all about catching the Ashley Madison e-philanderers with their virtual pants down.

When the list of Irish email accounts landed on my desk I started to trawl through them. It was a perfect exercise in voyeurism, which now makes me feel somewhat ashamed. Hundreds of addresses from TCD and UCC sat on line after line. "So that's what they do on sabbatical," I thought.

But any sort of perverse enjoyment on my part quickly turned into scepticism.

I found it hard to believe anyone could be foolish enough to register for an online adultery firm via their work email. We're the people who invented the perforated stamp, the submarine and the flavoured crisp, for goodness sake, Irish people can't be that stupid.

I began to wonder if any of these emails actually belonged to legitimate Ashley Madison users looking for a "bit on the side".

Perhaps it's just a very elaborate prank concocted by bored undergraduates who hope to embarrass bookish academics by flooding their email account with lewd messages.

But as Irish names began to circulate, people were ready and waiting to cast the first stone. "I bet the little f***er used the work credit card too," a colleague of one of those listed said.

If these lists of emails are totally legitimate, than my sympathies lie with the adulterers, rather than the decidedly smug hackers named Impact Team.

Committing adultery is not admirable but are online blackmail and public shaming any better?

Having your sex life open to public scrutiny is a minefield, but Impact don't seem at all concerned at the havoc their revelations are likely to cause.

Some of the names published by Impact belong to people living in countries like Saudi Arabia - where adultery is punishable by death.

People will lose jobs. Marriages will break up. Families will be torn apart.

Impact claim that the purpose is to show Ashley Madison had deceived their clients by not securing their private files properly. That will be small consolation for those whose lives are ruined.

Irish Independent

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