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Defending AshleyMadison's Hackers Against Canadian Terrorism Charges?

September 2, 2015

Though it's the type of news that typically only makes the rounds in the seedier circles, it's been all but impossible to avoid the hype surrounding the recent hacking of AshleyMadison.com. This website promised to connect married individuals in search of extra-marital liaisons, enabling them to have affairs in secret—for a monthly fee, of course.

Such a website, while perfectly legal on the surface, is clearly morally dubious, and that dubiousness is increased by recent revelations that the company essentially lied to its customers, greatly inflating the number of women supposedly subscribed to the site in an effort to entice more male customers to sign up.

Regardless of how one feels about the site or its paying customers, the hacking of the site several months ago was unquestionably illegal. After breaching AshleyMadison's security, the hackers stole tons of user information, including names and credit card info, and threatened to publish all of the information online unless the site was taken down. The deadline passed, the site stayed up, and all of the information went live, leading to no small amount of scandal.

All of this is mildly interesting from a legal perspective, but of course it's not the legal elements of the incident that are causing such a salacious media spree. There is one legal element that everyone in Canada should be paying attention to, though, and interestingly it was a CBC article on the story that made me think of it.

The article mentions that the hackers could be charged with "mischief to property," a crime that includes anything that "obstructs, interrupts, or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of the property." And because that property was part of a business enterprise…the hackers could be charged as terrorists under Canadian law.

Bill C-51, also known as the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2015, makes any disruption of legitimate economic interests a potential terrorist act. There is no question that the hackers activities—both the initial security breach and the publishing of the information they stole—constitute disruptions of an economic interest.

No matter how serious the crimes committed here were, to compare the hacking of an infidelity website with something like the blowing up of subways or the crashing of airplanes into buildings is absurd. Absurd in a decidedly unfunny way.

I warned against the passage of Bill C-51 specifically because it is so ambiguous and so far-reaching. We might just see the first instance of a militarized government marching in to protect the moneyed interests as a result of this case.

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This entry was posted on September 2, 2015


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