“The truth is the only thing worth having, and, in a civilized life, like ours, where so many risks are removed, facing it is almost the only courageous thing left to do. “~E.V. Lucas
I wonder if someday, hackers will be thought of as modern day Robin Hoods, where the wealth that they are redistributing is the truth. The recent hack of Ashley Madison and Established Men has struck a cultural nerve, not unlike the Wiki leaks or the work of Edward Snowden. Hackers in general appear to be driven by a moral imperative. The Impact Team that claimed responsibility for the Avid Media hack claimed that one of their reasons for targeting ALM is because the company “profits on the pain of others.”
All day, my friends and family sent me updates about the unfolding story; in part because they still remember my interview with CEO of Avid Media, Noel Biderman, the creator of Ashley Madison, Established Men, which purportedly facilitates sex trafficking for wealthy men, and several other online dating sites. I vividly remember Biderman’s arguments about how his site doesn’t make people cheat, rather, because it is so easy and seamless, saves marriages, allowing people to stay together because their sexual needs, which weren’t met within monogamy could be met elsewhere. When I pushed him and asked him to imagine how this could play out in his own marriage, he admitted it would be devastating.
Some argue that Ashley Madison provides a solution for consenting adults to acquire the sex and intimacy they are not getting at home. Yet, this is not true consent because it does not account for the collateral damage of those left out of the decision. The betrayal of intimate lies cuts deeper than most other dishonesties in relationships because our sexuality is the thing that we often guard closest to our hearts and also are most damaging to our ability to trust ourselves. Like a slow creeping poison, that which remains undisclosed is felt with an intensity that keeps us up at night and makes us question our reality. This betrayal’s impact is widespread, affecting not only the couple, but their families and communities. At its core, it isn’t actually the illicit sex that is so damaging, it is the deceit, which multiplies upon itself, destroying the implicit trust that relationships need to thrive.
All of the most famous hacking cases come back to this place of full disclosure and begs the question of who has the right to know what is hidden. If hacking itself is a criminal act, thus the release of hidden truths is viewed as criminal. It is a kind of oxymoron… life is increasingly demanding of everyone full disclosure. More and more, the news is full of a wide range of long held secrets that have been revealed, even within the workings of our own government. Impact’s threat to disclose all Ashley Madison users is breaking the law and yet it is forcing us to reconsider what should be protected information. Do we all have the right to our privacy, regardless of its impact on others? Is one partner’s right to privacy more protected or valuable than the other partner’s right to know? I know this, that as Thomas Jefferson once said, “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” Living a life of lies is nothing but trauma and pain waiting to happen. Relationships, sexual and otherwise, are nourished on the truth and, as we move into the brave new world of technology and its dark shadow of hacking, I suspect that the truth will reveal itself in ways we might not be prepared for. What are you hiding? And is the cost of the revelation worth your peace?