Media discourses surrounding ‘non-ideal’ victims
The case of the Ashley Madison data breach
Cassandra Cross, Megan Parker and Daniel Sansom
Data breaches are an increasingly common event across businesses globally. Many companies have been subject to large-scale breaches. Consequently, the exposure of 37 million customers of the Ashley Madison website is not an extraordinary event in and of itself. However, Ashley Madison is an online dating website predominantly known for facilitating extramarital affairs. Therefore, the nature of this website (and business) is very different from those that have previously been breached. This article examines one of the media discourses surrounding the victims of the Ashley Madison data breach. It particular, it illustrates examples of victim blaming evident in the print media towards individuals (or customers) who had their personal details exposed. Importantly, it highlights the emerging tension within this particular case, of the strong victim blaming narrative contrasted against those who attempted to challenge this discourse and refocus attention on the actual offenders, and the criminality of the act. The article concludes that victims of this data breach were exposed to victim blaming, based on the perceived immorality of the website they were connected to and their actions in subscribing, rather than focusing on the data breach itself, and the blatant criminality of the offenders who exposed the sensitive information.
Available online at the International Review of Victimology