The hackers behind the Ashley Madison debacle have today released an even larger batch of adulterers' private data.
If you don't already know, Ashley Madison is an online dating site for people in married or committed relationships. It actively targets those who want to cheat on their spouses. If you've ever used it - or you're worried your spouse might have - read on for our Modern Etiquette advice on dealing with this most intimate of criminal hacks.
I've used Ashley Madison to cheat on my spouse. What do I do now?
Provided you have not done so already, you need to tell your spouse about your infidelity. There's an old argument that it is selfish to tell the person you're married to that you've cheated on them, because it gives you relief by admitting it (and causes a lot of pain on the other end).
However, it's more selfish to keep your infidelity a secret, especially now there's a chance your spouse could find out about it by a third-party, i.e. a publically-available hack. Ask yourself what is worse: being able to sit down now and tell your spouse what you've done with full disclosure, or having them search for your name online and come to you in a rage wanting an explanation?
Perhaps most importantly - and this is something you should have done a long time ago if you did cheat - go and get a full STI check-up as soon as possible. Sexually transmitted diseases are too commonly spread when one party has cheated but is too chicken to own up, and continues to put their spouse in danger with unprotected sex under the guise of continuing to be in a monogamous relationship.
I have a profile on Ashley Madison. Do I have any legal options now it's out and open on the World Wide Web?
In the last 24 hours there has been debate about the users of Ashley Madison and whether they will be able to file a class-action lawsuit against the company. What sounds like a storyline from The Good Wife may be a legitimate reality; at least for Ashley Madison users in America (where the lawsuit would likely take place).
In most data breach lawsuit cases, there is difficulty in proving that the people whose data has been stolen have directly suffered a tangible or obvious harm because of the breach. For any of the adulterers on the Ashley Madison site whose relationships subsequently dissolves because of this hack, clear evidence will be available to illustrate such harm. Even if your relationship doesn't break up, you could also still argue your reputation has been damaged and you need to be compensated for it.
Again, this is all very American stuff. But if a class-action lawsuit does emerge and international users are asked to come forward, affected New Zealanders may want to make contact and see if/how they can proceed.
A spokesman for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner said present laws didn't give much recourse for people whose details were hacked.
"This will change when other sections of the Harmful Digital Communications Act come into effect, such as the appointment of an approved agency to manage complaints and a takedown process for content hosts, but these are not yet available," he said.
"There are existing options, but these options can only be used as a reaction to a privacy breach. People can make a complaint to this office if someone uses the information, and they can complain to either the Broadcasting Standards Authority or the Press Council if a broadcaster or publication (respectively) uses this information in a way that breaches their privacy. But by the time a complaint comes to us, the damage will have been done.
"Taking out a court injunction to prevent publication might be one avenue of action. But we're talking about a 'whack-a-mole' situation where people who are intent on disclosing this data can find other ways of making it available if one option is closed down."
The issue wasn't just a legal one, but societal and cultural too, the spokesman said.
"Our advice to people is if you wouldn't want it to happen to you, don't do it to other people. Not sharing the Ashley Madison data is one way all of us can stop a bad situation from getting any worse."
I used Ashley Madison three years ago when with my previous partner. I haven't used it since, but I'm worried my data will be found by my current partner. Should I confess to using it in the past?
"Once a cheater, always a cheater" is a cliché that will enter your current partner's mind if you decide to reveal your past infidelities. However, such a saying is nothing but a silly old chestnut; an old wives' saying used in times gone by when people were thought to be stuck in their ways.
Today's generation (for better and for worse) are more open and in touch with their feelings than any other generation before us. We accept that people DO change, people DO learn from their mistakes, people ARE firm on not repeating the past in their present.
While it will be a hard conversation, for that reason, you should tell your current partner that you used this website in a past relationship. Explain the background in full - your unhappiness in that relationship, your reason for cheating, when, how, and why it ended, etc - so you're giving them all the information in complete honesty. Then, focus on the strength of your current relationship and how the two of you will not let the past affect the future.
I'm worried my spouse is on Ashley Madison. Should I confront them? Should I go searching online for their name in the hacked data?
Hold your horses, you're jumping to conclusions. Remember in 2014 when there were concerns fruit handlers with Hepatitis A had spread the virus to supermarket shoppers who'd bought purportedly "infected" apples? The same thing is going to happen with the Ashley Madison hack: people will enter a state of hysteria and will be convinced they might be affected.
Don't go searching online for your spouse's data. It's like searching online for symptoms of a disease you think you have - you'll end up lost and confused in misleading information you don't understand.
If you are genuinely concerned, bring up the news of the Ashley Madison hack with your spouse over dinner tonight, like you would any other current affair. Discuss and debate it likely any other current affair. If your spouse is on the website, they now know you're informed about the hack, and their conscience might force them to come clean with you in the days to come.
You can always be straight up and ask, of course, but unless you have real evidence you are entering dangerous relationship territory. It'll be seen as an accusation, so tread very wisely.