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Security Is Up To YouToday a group of hackers have released massive amounts of data belonging to users of the Ashley Madison company. This service specializes in connecting people (i.e. matchmaking) for “cheating” purposes (i.e. presumably sexual encounters outside the bounds of matrimony). Hackers claim that the owners of the site refused their demands to close it down. Police and the company are investigating. These are the headlines and you can get more info by going to CTVNEWS – Canada and search for “Hackers claim they've leaked massive database of Ashley Madison users” or, if you know where to search, you can find the leaked data yourself.

The above statement contains the facts (as far as they are known) but they do not contain the analysis. For that, we are here. Let’s begin.

MORALITY OR VIRTUE

The Toronto-based Avid Life Media, Inc. (owners of the site) created a website that provides a service that customers want. They found that many people wish to have extramarital relationships and they proceeded to create a tool to satisfy this need… for a price.

This company acted well within the boundaries of Libertarianism as they have the personal belief that people should make their own decisions. The website is not pro-cheating nor against-cheating. It is simply a tool for people to have options. Choices. A product. It is up to every person to decide to use it or not to use it.

This action is neither moral and virtuous nor immoral and vicious. These are subjective definition that each one of us must define. The question is a simple one; did Avid Life Media interacted with peoples’ properties without their previous agreement? The answer is clearly NO!

BLACKMAIL

The second piece of the puzzle is the alleged blackmail demand from the group of hackers. We don’t know for sure what the demand was (information is contradictory at this time), but it is clear that there was a demand followed by a threat to release so-called “personal information”. The question is then, is blackmail acceptable in a Libertarian environment?

We need to answer this question in two parts:

  1. Did hackers use their own mind and body (i.e. their property) to issue such a blackmail? Obviously yes. Therefore they have not interacted with Avid Life Media’s property without previous agreement. So far so good.
  2. What were the means of communicating their demand to Avid Life Media? If they used property that belonged to the company without previous agreement, then they are liable, if not, then they are not. As hackers presumably sent an an unsolicited e-mail, then they did. They are therefore liable for using company property without previous agreement.

And so from this perspective, hackers can only be liable for using company e-mail servers to send an unsolicited e-mail. What is the real financial impact of such breach? Ridiculously low to the point of being negligible. Remember, we are not counting the effects of the blackmail, we are only counting the effects of one e-mail running through their servers.

In the same manner as the company did not act neither morally and virtuously nor immorally and viciously, neither did the hackers. This type of "labeling" is irrelevant.

So far, so good.

BREAK IN

The next question is the issue of hacking or breaking into company servers. Is this act acceptable under Libertarianism? Again, the question is whether or not hackers had permission to access company property. The answer is clearly no. Thus, they are liable for all the damage and interaction that they produced while within company boundaries.

Let’s be specific. We are not talking about the so-called damage that was produced by publicly releasing company information. We are talking about the damage produced to company property, specifically their servers. Maybe they corrupted data. Maybe they altered code. They clearly breached security which will now need to be fixed and upgraded. People will have to be paid. Software purchased and installed and so on. The cost we are talking about is the cost of the direct damage that they produced.

RELEASING INFORMATION

The next question is a simple one. Are hackers liable for the so-called “damage” produced because of the release of private information? The answer is no. This is so because copyright is a bogus concept (see Intellectual Property Compilation ) and hackers did not have a Non-Disclosure Agreement neither with the company nor their clients. Thus, hackers are free to do as they see fit with that data.

Again, it is the extraction of the data from company servers that is unacceptable under Libertarianism, not their dissemination.

BUT… BUT… BUT…

No buts. Look, this is simple. If the company was so concerned about privacy, they should have hardened their security. And why would a company do so? To protect itself against contractual liability with their clients. In a Libertarian system, people would be exceedingly suspicious of companies without a clear-cut contractual requirement to protect their private data. Current so-called “privacy” contracts are a joke. They are written along the lines of “best effort”. You see, dear client, we will do whatever we can to protect your info but should something horrible happen, we are not liable.

However, in this day and age because of all the idiotic Copyright, and so-called Privacy Laws, people trust companies to act responsibly. They are told by governments not to read the fine print. They are told by governments not to worry because should something happen “law enforcement” will be there. Well, something did happen, “law enforcement” wasn’t there and now a great deal of clients are deep in dung.

In a Libertarian system contracts are the paramount of our existence because Contracts Are The Key To Coexistence. People will recognize that without strong liability clauses, contracts are worthless and therefore they have no recourse. This is the reason why in a Libertarian system the company would have hardened their security because it would have been in their best interest to do so. If found liable, then they would have to pay a fortune in compensation. As it stands today, it is exceedingly unlikely that the company will be found liable simply because of existing laws and weak TOS (Terms of Service).

CONCLUSION

The Ashley Madison Hack is a good study in Libertarianism because it allows us to take a look at the flaws of current democratic systems and at the same time emphasize the strengths of Libertarianism. In our system such a hack would have been exceedingly unlikely to have occurred purely because of self-interest. Automatically. Without laws. Without the need for regulations.

Yet, in this current system the hack did happen despite all the laws and regulations. As a consequence of this, a great deal of people will have to live with the consequences. If you are one of such people, we keep reminding you that you do have a choice; a system that works or what you have today… and based on today’s events, you should think very hard about keep supporting it. Your choice.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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