Yang: Ashley Who?

Los Alamos

Summer is ending – if we go by the school calendar; so ends my occasional “summer lite” writing with today’s piece.

From certain perspectives, “Ashley Madison Hack” (link) story highlights depressing aspects of human nature and behavior: infidelity/cheating, disregard for innocents’ lives, sneaky attacks (illegal and, more so, unethical), executives’ unapologetic digging in, lying. I am sure there are other dimensions I haven’t thought of, but do we need more?

Yet, those of us who hadn’t even known about the existence of Ashley Madison before it was hacked can’t help indulging in a few chuckles, not entirely in schadenfreude spirit but there is an inherently ridiculous nature to the story and of the behaviors of the people involved, mostly the cheaters.

For the still uninitiated – as was I, for quite a few days even after the story first broke – AshleyMadison.com is a website that “assists” mostly married men who want to carry on secret affairs without “consequences.”  The site has been around for more than a decade and has more than 35+ million users worldwide. These are facts I just learned last week. Then, a self-righteous “Impact Team” of hackers broke into the AshleyMadison.com and demanded that the company who owns the site take down both AshleyMadison and EstablishedMen (oh, just Google it if you must), and admit the fraud in its claim that the personal information of the users who discontinued using the site was wiped clean.

When the parent company refused, the hackers decided that, after all, everyone’s personal information is just a pawn in the game, and revealed it all (minus the full numbers) publically. 

I don’t care about the hackers; hackers have been around and are seemingly unstoppable. And all hackers are not equal in their intent. I don’t care about the nature of the “Ashley Madison” business; it too has been around in various forms for millennia. Neither do I care about small cheating (kind of like white lies); most of us have done some in small doses, especially in our youth. I wouldn’t advocate cheating (unless your profession is espionage or counterespionage); but: If one decides to cheat, couldn’t one at least cheat with some intelligent forethought (link) before the act?! Like, Using your work email? Seriously?!

Unless you or your friends got caught in this web, I doubt that you have paid much attention to the story. However, there are some lessons; I mean, we might as well find some lessons from sordid affairs, right?

Don’t be too quick to judge. I wouldn’t know – nor really care to know – the percentage of people whose email addresses might have been hijacked for perpetrators’ clandestine activities.

By all means judge the perpetrators if that makes one feels better, but the beloved ones who got entangled as collateral damage can use some sympathy.

Adults have been lecturing young people to be careful of what to reveal in social media and to the public. Practice what we preach. 

Most importantly, employers, leave it off!  Just because the “.gov” or “.mil” is in plain sight doesn’t mean your people are automatically guilty. Hackers may not have any qualms exposing people’s privacy for their own gain, but that shouldn’t mean the employers need to add more burden to an individual’s plight. Fine, scold them for abusing office privilege, but serious punishment would be beyond schadenfreude. 

I will be off for the Labor Day long-weekend. Enjoy your holiday. Till Sept. 7,

Staying Sane and Charging Ahead

Direct Contact: taso100@gmail.com.

Editor’s note: Dr. Yang has a PhD in Management from the Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania. She taught at Wharton for a number of years, and consulted for small groups and small organizations and on cross-cultural issues. Her professional worldview comprises three pillars: 1. All organizations are social systems in which elements are inter-related. 2. To improve organizations, the focus should be on the positive dimensions on which to build. This philosophical foundation is Appreciative Inquiry. 3. Yang subscribes to the methodological perspective that she is part of the instrument from which to gain quality data from respondents, and with which to compare and contrast with others’ realities.


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