The New Zealand based coverage of the Ashley Madison dumps has focused almost exclusively on the email addresses of public servants and teachers showing up in the data. It’s what Duncan Garner focused on on his radio show, and on Story where they rang up various teachers to tell them they were in the dump, and in his Dom Post column yesterday (Garner now being the much smarter, slightly less narcissistic homologue to Mike Hosking, not quite as conservative and equally ubiquitous across rival media platforms). And ‘Teachers exposed!’ is the lead in the HoS today.
But I downloaded the dump files and took a look at the breakdown of top level addresses. It seems a little unfair that teachers account for about 0.2% of the addresses but close to 100% of the breathless coverage.
Many of the .co addresses are just private email addresses (xtra.co.nz, yahoo.co.nz) so you could claim that the focus is on teachers and public servants because they were stupid enough to use work addresses. But there are also literally thousands of work addresses included in that .co category including, amusingly enough, many from the media companies running these stories about dirty teachers and public servants. If these journos want to know why someone would sign up to one of these sites they should go ask their executives. Why are the teachers ‘exposed’ and not everyone else?
‘Don’t give your details to cheating sites’, is Garner’s big insight from the Ashley Madison dump. I think the implications are bigger than that. Relatively few people sign up to cheating sites but almost everyone who uses the internet relies on its privacy and anonymity in some way. Lots of people look at porn. Lots of people gossip or say things on their private messaging that they wouldn’t want everyone else to know. And any of it could be made public by self-righteous jerks like the Ashley Madison hackers. The sense of privacy could be an illusion that leads us all to exposure.