Won the 2018 Dark Side Case Award organized by Critical Management Studies division of Academy of Management, Chicago, USA.

Ashley Madison Hacking and the Ethics of Hacktivism

Ashley Madison Hacking and the Ethics of Hacktivism
Case Code: BECG161
Case Length: 11 Pages
Period: 2015-2016
Pub Date: 2018
Teaching Note: Available
Price: Rs.300
Organization: Ashley Madison
Industry: Online Dating Website
Countries: Canada
Themes: Business Ethics, Corporate Governance
Ashley Madison Hacking and the Ethics of Hacktivism
Abstract Case Intro 1 Case Intro 2 Excerpts

Abstract

The case deals with the ethical issues involved in hacking of Ashley Madison, a website promoting infidelity. The website was hacked by a group calling itself ‘The Impact Team’ in July 2015. Impact stole the customer information profiles along with other personal and sensitive information. Later it published the hacked data online as Ashley Madison did not fulfil their demand of shutting down the website. Impact had claimed two motivations for the hack: First, they have criticized Ashley Madison’s main mission of arranging affairs between married individuals. Second, they have condemned Ashley Madison’s business practices, in specific, its condition that users pay US$19 for the privilege of deleting all their data from the site. The hacking and the aftermath left horrified customers facing a future of ruined reputations and relationships.

The case discusses the questionable practices by Ashley Madison and the Impact team as both compromised ethical values. Ashley Madison encouraged people to cheat their partners and also failed to safeguard the privacy of its customers. On the other hand, Impact had taken law into its own hands by hacking confidential customer data. Adultery may be morally wrong, but can the vigilante punishment meted out to customers justified?

Issues

The case is structured to achieve the following teaching objectives:

  • Understand various issues and concepts in ethics and its relevance in business organizations.
  • Analyze the ethical issues arising out of the Ashley Madison hack.
  • Understand the role of hacktivism to promote social good, and the related ethical considerations.

Contents

Keywords

Business Ethics,Morality,Act Utilitarianism,Kant’s deontological moral theory,Virtue ethics,Hacktivism,Civil disobedience,Corporate Governance,Ethical Values,Vigilantism,Data Breach

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