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How would that Ashley Madison adultery account play during a nasty divorce? Mitchell points out that users would be wise to get to know the sites' privacy policies."Ideally, you should have a good idea what will happen if the site is presented with a subpoena or court order." But even sites that promise not to give it up for a subpoena can't fully protect the data, Mitchell explains in his piece, citing lawyer and privacy expert Jonathan Sablone: "If there's information within that database that may be relevant to a divorce proceeding, then through a court order, it's possible to obtain that.Court decisions tend to benefit tech companies and aggregators over users.In the 2001 In Re Double Click case, highlighted by Lori Andrews in her book, a judge argued in part that a data aggregator was not liable for accessing private information stored on a computer because their intent was to make a profit, rather than commit a crime."Ok Cupid says it can limit who sees your profile – for example, users who identify as gay or bisexual may opt out of being seen by straight people," said EFF technologist Seth Schoen in a press release."But without HTTPS, the fact that you identify as gay and don't want to be seen by some groups is sent in plain text, making it easy for someone with the right skills to uncover it." In January, a hacker broke into Grindr, a smartphone app equipped with GPS tracking that alerts gay men looking to hook up with others nearby, accessing private messages, IM chats and pictures of users -- and posting them to a Web site (which has since been taken down).
"This is a big step in the right direction for securing user privacy rights in the digital environment, but we’ve still got a long way to go.
"The danger of retaining information longer [than is necessary] is that it opens the door for legal processes down the road," says Sablone.
There's also a multitude of ways that information from a seemingly private profile can be revealed on the web.
The spoke with an anonymous security expert who said that "they had no real security." The company is working to plug the security gap but has not come up with a solution yet.
The Grindr fiasco is an extreme example, but a catastrophic data breach is not required for personal information to haunt users in unpredictable ways.