The Ashley Madison data leak has been making headlines for the past week, but it may cause more than just scandal and relationship issues.
Top data analyst Brian Krebs has warned that LGBT lives could have been put at risk, particularly if users of the controversial adultery dating site are based in countries where being gay remains illegal or heavily stigmatised.
“We have to be very cautious and I think sensitive to this,” Krebs told the Guardian. “There’s a very real chance that people are going to overreact. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw people taking their lives because of this.”
Earlier this week, 10 gigabytes of data were stolen from the controversial dating site, which markets itself as an online hook-up service for married people looking to have affairs.
The leaked information contained 36 million email addresses and other personal information, and included details about users of Ashley Madison’s gay domains such as Down Low and ManCrunch.
Ashley Madison on the Down Low “caters to men who are married but need something more in their lives”, promising “casual, no strings attached fun…chat, flirting, and more.”
At the time of the initial hack back in July, a Reddit user wrote that they could be stoned to death if the data was released.
Claiming to live in Saudi Arabia – where the punishment for homosexuality is the death penalty – he wrote that he used the site when studying in America, and that he was now considering fleeing Saudi Arabia.
Homosexual sex and relationships are still illegal in around three quarters of countries around the world, particularly in Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean.
CybelAngel, a firm that monitors data leaks, found 1,200 email addresses from Saudia Arabia – with the “.sa” suffix – where adultery is punishable by death. Alongside emails and names, sexual preferences, habits and fantasies have been uploaded, showing the popularity of ‘spanking’ and ‘cross-dressing’.
Ashley Madison’s Terms and Conditions read: “Although we strive to maintain the necessary safeguards to protect your personal data, we cannot ensure the security or privacy of information you provide through the Internet and your email messages.”
Words by LOUIS SHANKAR.