So, what do you think of the Ashley Madison story? I’ve been asked that many times this week. If you missed the story, the Ashley Madison site was allegedly hacked and the “bad guys” are threatening to release the names of all those registered with the site. The site, of course, is one that promotes having extra-marital affairs … a dating site, with an unsavoury twist. The news media are particularly excited that, apparently, Ottawans have signed up in droves and statistically there are one in five residents in Ottawa using the site.
I have my doubts about the numbers the company is tossing around, and I recognize this part is grabbing headlines because some say our government town is the town that "fun forgot," but the thing about the breach that is actually worth paying attention to is the fact that so many people gave up their information (or maybe they lied about their information) to an online service. When PIPEDA was first passed (shortly after the Quebec private sector law), the government said that one of the reasons for passing the law was to make sure Canadians felt comfortable and trusted the online economy. It would seem that this objective has been met … at least up until now. Some businesses are clearly building their brand on this trust.
Have any of the recent breaches affected you? These days, are you more or less willing to provide intimate details of your life to organizations that survey you from the virtual world? If there are really 200,000 Ottawans about to be “outed” by the hackers, I think there are a lot of people re-thinking what they do online, not just on sites like this, where some say they deserve to be outed, but in all sorts of other online spaces where customers expect better privacy. Hopefully the attention this breach is getting will help spread the critical lesson to all online businesses about safeguards and to all individuals about what they share online.
Creating a trusted online world is, I think, imperative, and a goal that we should strive for. I think we have a long way to go, but I think privacy laws have an important (if not the most important) role to play. If the Ashley Madison site had anything less than very good security before the hack, they should be held accountable.
On a different note, I want to draw out your attention to an actual feel-good story about a great Canadian company doing great things in the privacy world. Read below about the good things happening at Nymity: an online story truly worthy of some good attention.
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