The Dark Side of the Ashley Madison Hack That Nobody's Talking About


When Ashley Madison, the website that facilitates extramarital affairs, did not give in to hackers' July demands of shutting down, a group claiming to be the very same hackers, Impact Team, released a 9.7-gigabyte file on Tuesday that contained users' private information, from their names to their credit cards numbers. 

The debate over the ethics of publicly shaming cheaters continues to wage, but what's often forgotten is this leak can literally put peoples' lives at risk.

Though the vast majority of countries around the world have abolished laws against adultery over the past few decades — South Korea, for example, just repealed this law earlier this year — in a number of countries around the world, such as Taiwan, the Philippines and Pakistan, adultery remains illegal. It can even, in some places, be punishable by death, the Week reports. 

Around the world: In Pakistan, under the Hudood Ordinances, a woman found guilty of an extramarital affair could face stoning to death. As of 2013, the same fate could also face adulterers in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria (in one-third of the country's states), Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

In other countries, though they may not face capital punishment, adulterers could be subject to a variety of legal ramifications. In India, an extramarital affair is only considered adultery if it's committed without the consent of the woman's husband. A man found guilty of adultery can face up to five years in prison. In Taiwan, infidelity, though not always pursued in court, can land someone in jail for up to one year, the Week notes.

In the Philippines, a women can be charged with adultery for having intercourse with a man other than her husband, while a man can only face charges for the loosely defined but related crime of concubinage. The two crimes are punishable by up to six years and four years and two months respectively. 

In most countries, laws prohibiting infidelity disproportionally punish women, according to a 2012 statement from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

"Adultery laws have usually been drafted and almost always implemented in a manner prejudicial to women," the statement reads. "Provisions in penal codes often do not treat women and men equally and establish harsher sanctions for women, and in some countries, rules of evidence value women's testimony as half that of a man's."

Stateside: Though rarely prosecuted, there are still 20 states in the United States where adultery is still technically illegal. In Oklahoma, the act is considered a felony, and those found guilty could theoretically face as many as five years in prison. In Maryland, on the other hand, it's considered a misdemeanor and punishable with what would be a $327 fine in today's dollars (the law was originally put on the books in 1749 with a $10 fine).

Mic/USA Today

Another problem: There's also the issue of gay users having their personal data released. Shortly after the Ashley Madison data was made public Tuesday, one Reddit user with the moniker ICouldBeStoned2Death turned to the subreddit /r/LegalAdvice because he is gay, Saudi Arabian and the owner and operator of an Ashley Madison account. 


"I am from Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality carries the death penalty," he writes. "I studied in [redacted] the last several years and used Ashley Madison during that time ... I am single; I used it because I am gay. Gay sex is punishable by death in my home country, so I wanted to keep my hookups extremely discreet. (AM promised that they had systems in place to ensure confidentiality.)"

In 79 countries, homosexual acts are illegal, according to Business Insider, with sentences ranging from life imprisonment to enforced psychiatric intervention. Homosexuality is even punishable by death, the Washington Post reports, in 10 countries: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Mauritania, Yemen, Nigeria, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates.