Illegal, but moral? Were the Impact Team right to hack Ashley Madison?


The hacking of the Ashley Madison infidelity website by the Impact Team continues to be a major global news story.Today it was announced that Noel Biderman, the CEO and founder of the website has stepped down from his role.

Business analysts are saying that is hard to see how the company will survive. The company face multiple law suits relating to the loss of the information. Furthermore, analysis on the leaked data has exposed the vast numbers of fake female profiles the company produced to entice men to join.

A statement from the parent company, Avid Life Media, said:

“We are actively adjusting to the attack on our business and members’ privacy by criminals…We are actively co-operating with international law enforcement in an effort to bring those responsible for the theft of proprietary member and business information to justice.”

Criminals or heroes?

But are the Impact Team criminals or heroic activists?

On the one hand, they have successfully attacked a website which on many levels was morally bankrupt.  Ashley Madison blatantly encouraged people to be unfaithful to their partners and promoting a warped philosophy that infidelity was somehow good for marriage. But it did even do this honestly.  As the evidence now shows, they created thousands of fake female profiles to lure men into parting with their cash.  The whole site was a big con.

But on the other hand, the Impact Team’s actions will have already caused prompted untold heartache and pain in thousands of people’s homes as people realise their partners used the site. People have split up, weddings have been cancelled and there have been reports of two suicides linked to the disclosures.

Illegal, but moral?

What the Impact Team did was certainly illegal – but was it morally right?

There are plenty of examples of civil disobedience which was ‘illegal’ but which we now celebrate as morally heroic.

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