The Ashley Madison hack, and leak of its user database, continues to enrapture the public, and delight online news editors keen to fill their webpages with salacious content.
Many choose to ignore the very real harm and human cost that could result from information which should have remained private, and ask what are – to be fair – quite reasonable questions.
Like, why on earth would you use your work email address to sign up for a site like Ashley Madison?
Let’s ignore for a moment that the Ashley Madison site didn’t bother to verify email addresses – adding further weight to the argument that if someone appears to have an account, not only is it not proof that they have not had an affair, but it’s not even a certainty that they ever even visited the site.
And let’s draw a veil over the (admittedly fascinating) revelation that the leaked data appears to show that almost none of the women in the Ashley Madison database ever used the site, suggesting that men were largely paying money to converse with automated bots.
Assuming that you were really using a site like Ashley Madison, and that you were really talking to other people (rather than fembots) who wanted to have an affair with you, why would you give a site like that the email address you use for work ?
It’s a question I’ve been asked time and time again over the last week, and I think there’s one very simple answer.
People are more afraid of their spouse finding out about their membership of an dating or porn site than they are about their system administrator.
A suspicious partner might have plenty of opportunities to access your webmail account at home (maybe you rarely log out on a shared computer), or may see you furtively hiding browser windows on your desktop as they enter the room.
An IT team at work, however, probably has much more serious things to worry about – such as stopping hackers from breaking into the company servers, and blocking malware attacks – than worrying about if you receive the occasional notification in your inbox about a saucy message waiting for you on Ashley Madison.
None of this, of course, is to suggest that you should sign up your work account for all manner of sites and communications of which your company would disapprove. It’s your company’s computer, not yours, and you should respect their guidelines about acceptable usage.
But for your own privacy, and to protect the good name of your employers, if you don’t want to take your dirty laundry home with you, perhaps it would be wiser to use a burner email account with a non-identifying name next time you want to sign up for a site like Ashley Madison.