(First off, a caveat: Any number of those addresses, among the 36 million made public in the massive data dump, could be faked.)
See, it’s a sleepy time for official Washington, after all, with both chambers of Congress on recess, the president on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard and much of the rest of town in mice-will-play mode, content to let Iowa serve as the epicenter of cable soundbite-making. And not that any cheating public official would be publicly sweating out a fear of getting caught — even if he is mentally drafting that mea culpa press release.
But it does offer those remaining at their desks (or checking their Twitter feeds poolside) an August diversion. Chief among the reactions on Capitol Hill: Who the heck would use their work e-mail account to sign up for a site whose motto is “Life is short. Have an affair.”?
“It’s hard to believe, but there are still people who have expectations that their e-mail is their own, their computer is their own, their desk is their own, when in reality that’s not the case at all,” says Rebecca Gale, who writes a Hill workplace advice column for Roll Call newspaper. “For government jobs there should be an even higher expectation that you have no privacy.”
She guesses that anyone who would use a government address to sign up for a service might have done so without thinking, like when some Web browsers auto-fill billing information. But even low-level staffers should know better, she says. “You have to know that this could cost you your job — your boss will not want to be a part of this story.”
And perhaps there’s reason for some far-behind-the-scenes angst. Ashley Madison has gleefully touted Washington as the country’s capital of cheating, naming it the “Least Faithful” city for the last three years. In May, the company claimed 59,000 people with D.C. Zip codes had registered on the site. “The more successful you are, the more prone to cheating you are, and Washington is full of successful people looking for something outside their marriage,” Noel Biderman, chief executive of parent company Avid Life Media, said in a 2012 statement.
Prominent Washington divorce attorney Sandy Ain isn’t counting on an uptick in business resulting from the hack — those implicated will try, he says, with varying success, to explain away their information’s presence amid the hacked data. “I don’t think it will make a material difference to me, though it might be disruptive to a few relationships in town,” he says. “It’s more likely to create some new business for my son, though.”
And what line of work is he in?
“He’s a heart surgeon.”