A pastor who was a member of extramarital affairs site Ashley Madison and struggled with depression has died by suicide, CNN reports.
John Gibson, a married man and father of two, was a professor at New Orleans Baptist Seminary. He took his own life on August 24 — six days after data on more than 30 million users of Ashley Madison was dumped online by hackers. He mentioned the controversial dating site, aimed at people in relationships, in his suicide note.
“He talked about his depression, he talked about having his name on there, and he just said he was very, very sorry,” his widow Christi told CNN. “For John, it carried such a shame.”
In a statement posted to the New Orleans Baptist Seminary website, Seminary President says Gibson “was particularly known for his acts of kindness to the seminary family. John was the quintessential good neighbour.”
The pastor “worked tirelessly in his spare time providing free car repair for countless seminary students,” the statement adds.
In July, a hacker (or hackers) going by the name of The Impact Team targeted Ashley Madison and threatened to release customer details unless the site closed down. In August, they dumped more than 30 million users’ details online. The leak includes email addresses, physical descriptions, and detailed sexual preferences.
The fallout from the data breach is widespread. Divorce proceedings have already begun. Opportunist criminals have attempted to blackmail members, threatening to expose them if they don’t pay a bitcoin bounty. One analysis suggests such extortion schemes have already made thousands of pounds. The US military says it is investigating the thousands of military email addresses on the list and may discipline employees with memberships.
Shame, blackmail, and the breakdown of relationships isn’t all that’s at stake. According to Sky News, there are more than 1,000 Saudi Arabian email addresses in the dump. At least one gay Saudi Arabian Reddit user claims to have used the service because of its promise of discretion — he has since had to flee the country because homosexuality is punishable by death in the country.
Toronto Police, who are leading the investigation into the hack (Ashley Madison’s parent company Avid Life Media is Canadian), also say there have been at least two unconfirmed suicides linked to the data breach. Gibson appears to be the first one widely named.
Gibson’s widow says he was “definitely” worried that he could have lost his job had his membership been made public — a very real possibility, given a number of sites popping up that let users check if people they know are on the list. According to CNN, Gibson had also had also struggled with depression and addiction.
“I still believe it could’ve been fixed, it could’ve been healed in our lives,” Christi said. “These were real people, with real families, and real pain. It’s not a source for salacious gossip.”
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