As you’ve probably heard by now, cheaters’ dating site AshleyMadison has been hacked, and details about a sampling of accounts have been posted online. A claimed motive is the site’s “full delete” feature that promised users that their personal information and usage data stored by the website could be deleted with the payment of a fee. The hackers claim that this feature is “a complete lie.”
Although this is only the latest in a long string of information leaks, it is also one of the most sensitive. Since the website’s target audience is married people wishing to have an affair, most users presumably trusted that their information would be kept private. Although parent company Avid Life Media presumably never intended to break their customers’ trust, the results are the same.
So you’re not cheating on your spouse, so you have nothing to worry about, right? Well, I guess it depends on what kinds of things you worry about. So you don’t have an account on a hookup website. What have you been posting on your Facebook account? And what are your privacy settings? Do “friends of friends” know what city you live in and that you are on vacation out of state? Or even the whole world? What about your Instagram? Are your pictures telling strangers where your kids go to school and which Starbucks you frequent? What about that Google document where you wrote about your secret crush?
Everyone has a different tolerance for privacy, and that’s OK. But the Internet is not a good place for things that you want to keep private. Even if you’re doing everything right and have your settings all locked down, you still don’t have control over the information that you’re storing (or allowing someone else to store) on the Internet.
I try to keep some stuff private. I have my Facebook account pretty locked down, only letting friends see most of my posts. I only accept friend requests from people if I actually know who they are. I shut down my Instagram account a few years ago. (I didn’t use it that much, anyway.)
I also assume that anything I put out there might become public some day. I don’t put anything on the Internet that I want to hide from anyone. I think twice before hitting post. I ask myself if I’m OK with my mom, my pastor, and my future employer seeing what I’m writing. Because you truly never know.