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Why The Ashley Madison Hack Is A Smaller (And Bigger) Deal Than You Think

Last month’s hack of online infidelity purveyors Ashley Madison got a whole lot more real yesterday when the so-called “hacktivist” group The Impact Team made the individual details and credit card info for 32 million accounts public. The data dump, a whopping 9.7 gigs of it, was initially only available on the heavily encrypted Tor network, but savvy trolls have been digging through it and moving big chunks of info to more easily viewed parts of the internet.

If you’re a non-philanderer whose first reaction to this news is, “I wonder if the Mrs …” you almost certainly have nothing to worry about; the hackers claim between 90 and 95 percent of the site’s accounts belong to men. If you’re a philandering employee of the government, though, you might want to freak out — there are approximately 10,000 accounts with .gov email addresses.

Source: DadaViz

While it’s easy to watch this whole tawdry thing unfold while sipping a piping hot cup of schadenfreude, doing so might miss a larger point. As John Hermann points out over at The Awl, the most damaging consumer website hacks to date have created nothing more than the inconvenience of getting a new credit card. If the Ashley Madison hack results in hundreds of thousands (millions?) of personal lives being destroyed — and it theoretically could — that would force everyone to rethink how they use the internet itself.

A wise man once said, “If you have something you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.” That guy was the head of Google, and he was pilloried for saying it, but the Ashley Madison hack could wind up proving him right.