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Life is Short… Don’t Get Caught!

ashleyThis is an amazing story that continues to play out for Ashley Madison, and the many, many, surprisingly many, individuals who have decided to go online to have a ‘discreet’ affair. No matter how unseemly or morally corrupt their service may be, it’s hard to dispute that they are ‘disrupting’ the industry and institution of marriage.

Their radio commercials are always entertaining and humorous, who hasn’t caught themselves inadvertently singing one of their jingles? Company CEO Noel Biderman has an uncanny ability to position Ashley Madison like any other startup, one that has simply found a way to fill consumer’s needs. It has often been said that we are part of the advent of the ‘on demand’ marketplace, why not bring this concept into meeting people’s companionship needs?

More importantly than the facts surrounding this story though, are the interesting studies in both public relations, or crisis management, and the continued reliance on technology, combined with the hope that what we do online remains secret, this situation offers.

As we all find ourselves doing from time to time, I was clicking from one story to the next when I came across the media statement released by Avid Life Media, the parent company of Ashley Madison, in which they come out swinging against this act of ‘criminality’ and express their “outrage” that anyone would commit such “illegitimate” acts against “innocent citizens simply going about their daily lives.” A brilliantly crafted piece, you almost forget that those whose information has been exposed are taking very real steps to break, or have already broken, their vows of marriage. These “free thinking” people, the press release continues, have been judged by “thieves” seeking “to force their personal ideology on citizens around the world.”

From one PR professional to another, I tip my hat to the person or persons who crafted this statement and made us all forget, if even for a few minutes, what those user’s motivations were for signing up for the service to begin with. There is no doubt that the users of Ashley Madison are operating within the confines of the law, and neither I, nor anyone else, have the right to take action against them based on our own beliefs or values. This press statement made us remember that.

Ashley Madison’s business model is based on them maintaining absolute secrecy for their users. In this instance, it seems they have failed. Time will tell how much of the information stolen in this hack is authentic or relevant enough to cause genuine security concerns. In any case, I’m sure there’s more than one customer who is now second guessing their decision to log in! We will see if this strong response against those responsible will be enough to salvage their reputation, and restore their customers’ trust in the site’s ability to offer the discretion they promise.

The second point this raises, the intersection of relying on technology and hoping for secrecy is much more straightforward. Simply put, if you don’t want people knowing you’re doing it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it, and you certainly shouldn’t be going online, giving your most intimate details to a third party, to get it done!

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