Looking for the last private place? It’s not between the sheets.

If you long for the last private place, be assured there is no refuge between the sheets. If, on the other hand, you’d like to invade someone’s sexual privacy, forces are conspiring to help you. Engage these forces at your own peril.

If you want to know whether someone is cheating, you can get some help from notorious privacy invader Spokeo. Just enter your sweetie’s email address on Spokeo’s “is he cheating on you?” page, and its web scraper will gather up all the references it can find related to the address. For a price.

“CAUTION: This information is potentially shocking,” the site warns. “Spokeo uses proprietary deep web technology to search over 70 social networks for status updates, photos, relationships, and profiles. Please prepare yourself for the unexpected.”

I entered my husband’s email address, which is not his name, but a fairly generic word. Spokeo told me there were 51 results with the same email handle — that is, just the part before the @ symbol, not the complete address. But I’d have to cough up a credit card number to find out if any of them belong to my man.

“Hey,” I jabbed him in the ribs. “Are you cheating on me?”

“No,” he said without looking up from his smartphone, “Why do you ask?”

I wasn’t curious enough to pay money to a company I consider despicable, so I left Spokeo without further interaction. Within a few hours, Spokeo was spamming me with other services I might find useful.

Some folks may be treated free of charge to a report about their spouse’s sex-seeking behavior, whether they want it or not. Cyberattackers last week issued a serious threat to Ashley Madison, a website that facilitates infidelity: Shut down your business or we’ll post stolen client data for the world to see – including nude photos,  sexual fantasies, and credit card data.

The site is still operating, and this is probably a ticking time-bomb for millions of marriages.

The attackers, who call themselves “The Impact Team,” apparently think they’re doing some kind of public  service. They’re motivated by the failure of the parent company, Avid Life Media, to adequately scrub personal data from another hook-up site it runs. There’s a $19 charge for the scrub service, which removes personal profile and “community data” if the user decides to cut loose from the cheater’s club. But it doesn’t scrub credit card information.


Credit card data is a valuable identification tool. So valuable that the Cook County Sheriff in Illinois made a demand some years back to another business. Sheriff Thomas Dart used the implicit force of his office to persuade Backpage.com to require credit cards for sex-related transactions.

Backpage.com is a marketplace on the Craigslist model, offering a host of goods-and-services categories, including a range of adult services, like strippers, escorts, dominatrix and fetish. Backpage not only complied with the demand from the sheriff, but actively works with law enforcement to accomplish its ostensible purpose — finding suspected child predators and human traffickers. The company cooperates with subpoenas by providing client data when it’s sought, and also puts its sex ads through a vigorous regimen of internal scrutiny both before and after they post.

Nonetheless, Sheriff Dart recently send a demand to Mastercard and Visa to “defund” Backpage. That is, stop processing its transactions. The credit card companies responded by halting their services to Backpage, despite long relationships and no indication of criminal activity.  Backpage went to court seeking an injunction against Sheriff Dart and claiming prior restraint of free speech.

The judge sided with Backpage, and granted the restraining order, but allowed that Backpage is not necessarily certain to prevail at trial.

Yes, offering dominatrix services is a form of speech. Maybe performing the service is, too. But the free speech question requires consideration of the entire website, including users who are not seeking sexual services. When you post a free ad to sell your used NordicTrack, you are subsidized by the strippers and other adult-oriented service providers who pay for their ads. Backpage suggests that the business is unsustainable without the revenue from the sex ads. If the company shuts down, everyone loses a forum for speech.

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