Ashley Madison, the adultery website seemingly named for Honey Boo Boo’s fiercest rival, unwillingly yielded all of her secrets to the prying eyes of a hacker group that calls itself The Impact Team.  At midsummer, the Team informed Ashley Madison’s parent company, Avid Life Media, that they would release all of the immoral website’s data—“all customer records, profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies, nude pictures, and conversations and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails”—if ALM didn’t shut down Ashley immediately.

The hackers claimed to want to punish Ashley tit for tat.  According to them, the site, which allowed would-be philanderers and homewreckers to show their wares and hook up anonymously, was profiting by extorting money ($1.7 million in 2014, allegedly) from embarrassed people (former clients and others registered unwittingly as a result of workplace shenanigans) who had to pay a fee of $19 to have their profiles and other data deleted permanently.  Adding insult to injury, ALM (the hackers claimed, correctly) didn’t actually scrub the data upon receipt of payment.  So the hackers sought to extort ALM right back, and broke a few eggs (37 million users’ reputations) in the process.

On Ashley’s website, next to the blurb “As seen on: Hannity, Howard Stern, TIME, BusinessWeek, Sports Illustrated, Maxim, USA Today,” was the sincerely ridiculous statement that “Ashley Madison is the world’s leading married dating service for discreet encounters.”  So sincere was this pretention to worldwide discreetness that ALM steadfastly refused to comply with The Impact Team, and even denied (at first, according to an investigator from the Guardian) that anything more than “two members’ details” had been leaked.

The result was the well-known data dump of August that has exposed millions of (mostly) average men, along with government officials, celebrities, and prominent Christians, together with their families, to shame and ridicule.

Like many, I’ve received numerous spam emails from Ashley over the years, informing and exhorting me: “Life Is Short.  Have an Affair.”  Who, I wondered, in his right mind would enter his personal data and credit-card information into such a disgusting website?

Thanks to the bold and courageous mainstream media, ever eager to protect people from detraction, we now know who.

Unfaithful, reckless, stupid?  You bet.  But then I have to wonder: Where do I regularly enter my information?  What curious and discreet Google searches have I performed?  Who has that data, and how secure is it?

I’ll cut to the chase.  We’ve made ourselves a bad bargain.  Big Brother is watching us, and no matter what we say about Ed Snowden or the PATRIOT Act, we really don’t care.  In fact, we get upset whenever we can’t access Big Brother’s network and offer him new information.  The internet goes down, and life as we know it grinds to a halt.  This is the fertile soil in which Ashley Madison grows and thrives.

The real question—for the adulterers of Ashley Madison, and for the rest of us as well—is, would we make the same stupid choice again?  Here’s the pitch: What if I could offer you the ability to shop right there at your desktop computer, your laptop, or phone?  What if, instead of going to a library or purchasing a map at a gas station, you could simply look up information where you sit?  What if you could turn in your homework with the touch of a button, instead of having to print it out or write on paper?  Pay your bills!  See pictures of old friends and even people you’ve never met!  Vote!  Play video games!  Refill your meds!  You’ll never have to get out of your chair again!  The only thing you’ll have to give up is every shred of privacy, while rendering meaningless or at least superfluous most face-to-face interaction.

Today, our privacy is mostly an illusion.  It doesn’t take a conspiracy nut to realize that there are databases out there recording your clicks, your googles, your purchases.  It’s not from magic that Facebook serves you an ad for a product you looked at yesterday on another website.

If we’re honest, we’ll have to admit that we’re all one good hack away from devastating embarrassment in one form or another.

This online world we now cherish is based on the illusion of anonymity—just me and my computer in a darkened room, searching for images of that hot actress or discolored mole, for information on this fringe group or that taboo thought, posting our I.P.-address identifiable pseudonymous zingers in the comment section, blogging our hearts out, clicking on the latest rumor, thrill-seeking an instant and ephemeral opinion to skim and share.  Those moments are gone, but their digital records are out there on hard drives mirrored and accessible via the World-Wide Web.  How long will it be before some hacker crafts the perfect This Is Your Life algorithm and offers up the results for the world to read?

Maybe The Impact Team and Ashley Madison did us all a favor.