Here is some interesting information compiled by @dadaviz taken from the illegally obtained Ashley Madison data dump.
Yesterday I could have downloaded the 10 gigs of illegally obtained Ashley Madison customer data. The idea was kind of thrilling. I could see which associates of politicians, lobbyists or corporate executives are on the list, prepare it for oppo research, political leverage and/or public shaming.
I didn't do it but lots of people can and will. Prepare for the onslaught. I'm trying to get ahead of the curve a bit. Partly to help people see how different groups might handle this. Partly to wonder how it might be used, abused or leverage by others. And finally, I'd like to reinforce the importance of figuring out how to maintain privacy in our current surveillance state.
I keep thinking about two comments I've heard in the past around privacy, sex and cheating on a spouse.
"If you haven't done anything wrong you don't have anything to worry about."
"It's not about the sex, it's about the lying."
I wrote about privacy and this breach back in July, Why I care when people with ‘something to hide’ are hacked. I recently did a podcast with blogger out of Ireland. It's not up yet, but he asked me good questions about privacy, morality and transparency. I realized I didn't have good answers and it led me to questions of my own.
- How are media and political organizations going to deal with these revelations?
- How might these be used against the left or right?
- How will individuals use this personal information against people engaged in an act consider morally wrong by some?
But what if you don't consider the act morally wrong, but others do? What if I don't consider the act wrong, others don't either but I would still rather not share that with the world? So for example, what if this was a data breach from a gay sex site like Grinder?
I look at things though an activist, political and technological lens, so here are a few other questions.
No, Mike Huckabee won't be on the list, but what about his staff?
- How will the various political candidates and their campaigns deal with disclosure of Ashley Madison data?
- How will the candidate you hate deal with disclosures vs. the ones you like?
- What if your friends, co-workers and paymasters are on the list but not your political enemies? What if both are?
Media - Sex sells, duh. What's your media's angle?
- How will the left, right and MSM cover this differently?
We are already seeing a few stories. The first I saw was about a religious conservative spokesperson on Gawker. Next, a story in Salon reminding people of the criminal act behind the story.
Enjoy the schadenfreude and gossip, if you must -- it's still powered by a despicable vigilante act by MARY ELIZABETH WILLIAMS
The main stream media will be all over this story. They will be using the data in their standard, "Both sides do it" format.
The media will need to appear "fair and balanced" and for every famous right wing person on the list the MSM will put a democrat or liberal person in for balance. Even if the ratio is 100,000 to 1 they will do a fifty-fifty split. (Remember anti-war protests? Hundreds of thousands against the war but the TV made sure to give equal air time to tiny pro-war groups "for balance."
Look for this. The data is going to be very skewed for multiple reasons, but like the faked emails,the media won't be pointing this out.
When this happens it often pushes people to defend people or acts that they disagree with but need to defend on principle.
In the olden days I called it the "But, but Clinton!" rule because every time you brought up a horrible thing from the right you got a story about Clinton showing equal horribleness.
"It's not about the sex."
You could have a real problem with people cheating on their spouse, but what you don't have a problem with is consenting adults having sex. You could believe that people should have the right to privacy, but not in cases that violate laws that are a violation of constitutional protections.
You might believe that people who violate international laws involving torturing humans don't deserve privacy, yet they get it. However, when someone breaks the law to reveal these acts of torture, you consider them heroes.
"It's about the lying."
I don't expect any high-level politicians to be on the list. I don't want to underestimate sneaky politicians but I also shouldn't overestimate their ability to protect their privacy when it comes to computer technology.
Some of the coverage will be based on espoused values (no pun intended, but...) Yes you can say, "We aren't the ones pushing 'family values'" but that still doesn't mean that this can't be used against someone in another different way, Remember this? "It's not about the sex it's about the lying--under oath."
You might think that the right wing religious conservatives will suffer more from this than the left, but I'm not so sure. As my friend Sarah pointed out, the religious right have all sorts of public apology and Christian forgiveness mechanisms in place. Even if you aren't a serious Christian you can still put out the "Forgive me Jesus, I'm a sinner." card. Or quote the "He is who is without sin cast the first stone." line and boom! Your soul slate is wiped clean.
The bright side? It might remove some blackmail opportunities
As Jay Ackroyd pointed out during our Virtually Speaking podcast, The agency that is responsible for helping protect Americans from cyber crime is the NSA. That's right, the NSA. They are also the ones who are out there looking into other countries' data. This kind of digging up data is happening all the time. In this case it was not a state actor, but it could have been.
But the defensive side of the NSA is not the focus. As mentioned in this podcast:
"The NSA is not earning their money unless they're trying to do the exact same thing to the Chinese, the Russians and everyone else," says Vincent Houghton, historian and curator of the International Spy Museum in Washington, referring to America's electronic-spy agency, the National Security Agency.
Nation states (or political operatives!) could sit on this data and use it for leverage when they want to get a deal done, a bill passed or a contract signed.
It could be used to pressure someone close to a powerful official to do almost anything.
Does the NSA have the equivalent of this info about the Germans, French, British and Chinese? You bet. You don't think they just tapped Merkel's phone?
This information will be used for leverage in multiple ways. Negotiations on the TPP, TIPP, major arms deals and corporate contracts.
Remember last week where I suggested that we get the GOP billionaires to go after each other? What if we encouraged the right wing media to dig into this data to get Trump? Or to get the Trump supporters to dig into this to go after Huckabee? Will that happen? No.
The right will use this to figure out a way to go after the people on the left. And the MSM will go along with it because "both sides do it" and they need balance.
One reason that we push for privacy at times and transparency at others is because some things aren't anyone's business but your own. Other times it is because it IS other people's business and so we set up rules and laws to make that information available. Those rules sometimes change. Last night I was watching an episode of New Tricks from 2010 when this line came up.
"If you haven't done anything wrong you don't have anything to worry about."
The response was interesting, especially when you found out the truth at the end.
"It depends on who's deciding what's right or wrong, doesn't it?"