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Ashley Madison hack raises questions about email security




LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 19:  In this photo illustration, a man visits the Ashley Madison website on August 19, 2015 in London, England. Hackers who stole customer information from the cheating site AshleyMadison.com dumped 9.7 gigabytes of data to the dark web on Tuesday fulfilling a threat to release sensitive information including account details, log-ins and credit card details, if Avid Life Media, the owner of the website didn't take Ashley Madison.com offline permanently. (Photo illustration by Carl Court/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 19: In this photo illustration, a man visits the Ashley Madison website on August 19, 2015 in London, England. Hackers who stole customer information from the cheating site AshleyMadison.com dumped 9.7 gigabytes of data to the dark web on Tuesday fulfilling a threat to release sensitive information including account details, log-ins and credit card details, if Avid Life Media, the owner of the website didn't take Ashley Madison.com offline permanently. (Photo illustration by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Carl Court/Getty Images

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The website Ashley Madison confirmed last month that it had been hacked. The hackers dumped nearly 10 gigabytes of data last week, revealing names and email addresses of 33 million folks who purportedly used the website. 

The leaked information was considered especially sensitive, considering Ashley Madison markets itself to married people looking to cheat on their spouses. So imagine your spouse goes online and finds your name there. Oops.

That's exactly what happened to Evan Ratliff, the founder and editor-in-chief of the online publication the Atavist in New York.

While the email address Ratliff's wife found was not his, he says the whole idea can be very unnerving. "Anyone can use your email address for anything they want, and many of these sites don't verify email addresses," he said.

It's also not the first time Ratliff's email has been mixed up. He says he's received other people's emails involving tax returns, T-ball sign ups, and even a women's book club in Georgia.

"I try to remove myself politely, and sometimes they say, 'Oh you're right, that's not really you,' but then they still keep me on there because I'm in some kind of contact list," he said. "Maybe I'm just the central hub in the E. Ratliff community, and I'm supposed to receive these emails," he joked.

The entire hack not only opens up many questions about online privacy, but also how quick society is to judge before getting all the details.

"On one hand its really scary, but then again it raises the question of what it means to find someone's email in this kind of breach, and how we draw conclusions," Ratliff said.

To listen to the full interview, click on the blue audio player above.