Ashley Madison, or The Ashley Madison Agency, is a Canadian online dating service and social networking service. It was launched in 2002 and marketed to people who are married (or people in relationships) who are looking for affairs.[3] The website's slogan is "Life is short. Have an affair."[2]

Ashley Madison
Type of site
Online dating service
Social network service
Available inChinese (simplified and traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian and European), Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish (European, American), Swedish, Tagalog, Turkish, Ukrainian
Founder(s)Darren Morgenstern
Key peoplePaul Keable (Chief Strategy Officer)
Brian Offenheim (Vice President of Creative and Design)
Haze Deng (Chief Revenue Officer)
George Al-Koura (Chief Information Security Officer)
Srdjan Milutinovic (Chief Information Officer)
ParentRuby Corp.
URLwww.ashleymadison.com Edit this at Wikidata
CommercialYes
RegistrationYes
Users60 million (as of February 2019)[1]
LaunchedJanuary 21, 2002; 22 years ago (2002-01-21)[2]
Current statusActive

The company has been criticised for being a "business built on the back of broken hearts",[4] and is reported to have exaggerated the size of its userbase by "creating fake accounts, or not stopping others from creating fake accounts".[5]

Ashley Madison gained notoriety in 2015 when it was subject to a data breach and the personal information of millions of users was released to the public.[6]

History

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Ashley Madison was founded in 2002 by Darren J. Morgenstern. The name comes from two popular female names in North America, "Ashley" and "Madison".[2]

On July 15, 2015, hackers stole all of its customer data—including emails, names, home addresses, sexual fantasies, and credit card information—and threatened to post the data online if Ashley Madison and fellow Avid Life Media site Established Men were not permanently closed.[3] By July 22, the first set of customer names was released by hackers,[7] with all of the user data released on August 18, 2015. More data (including some of the CEO's emails) was released on August 20, 2015. The release included data from customers who had previously paid a $19 fee to Ashley Madison to supposedly have their data deleted.[8] The fee was also applied to people who had accounts set up against their will, as a workplace prank, or because of a mistyped email address.[9]

On August 28, 2015, Noel Biderman agreed to step down as chief executive officer of Avid Life Media Inc.[10] A statement released by the firm said his departure was "in the best interest of the company".[11]

In July 2016, parent company Avid Life Media re-branded itself to Ruby Corp. and appointed Rob Segal as its new CEO.[12] In the same month, the company changed its signature tagline from "Life is Short. Have an Affair." to "Find your moment",[3] and updated its brand imagery to replace the image of a woman wearing a wedding ring with a red gem-shaped symbol as its logo.[13][14][15]

By 2017, CEO Rob Segal and President James Millership had resigned from their respective roles.

In May 2017, Ashley Madison unretired the tagline "Life is short. Have an affair", and the image of the married woman, symbolic of the company's returned focus on married dating.[16] In February 2019, the company announced it had reached the 60-million-member mark.[1] In a 2019 interview, Ashley Madison's Chief Strategy Officer Paul Keable stated that the service helps create up to one million affairs every month.[17]

Membership

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Ashley Madison is a membership website and service based in Canada; its membership includes more than 60 million people in 53 countries.[7]

The company announced plans to launch in Singapore in 2014.[18] However, Singapore's Media Development Authority (MDA) announced that it would not allow Ashley Madison to operate in Singapore as "it promotes adultery and disregards family values".[19]

Business model

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Unlike Match.com or eHarmony, Ashley Madison's business model is based on credits rather than monthly subscriptions. For a conversation between two members, one of the members, always the man, must pay eight credits to initiate the conversation. Any follow-up messages between the two members are complimentary after starting communication. Ashley Madison also has a real-time chat feature where credits buy a certain time allotment.

The site allows users to hide their account profiles for free. Users looking to delete their accounts, even those made without the individual's consent, are charged a $19 fee.[9][20] The "full delete" option claims to remove user profiles, all messages sent and received, site usage history, personally identifiable information, and photos.[21] The data disclosures in 2015 revealed that this "permanent deletion" feature did not permanently delete anything, and all data was recoverable.[citation needed]

Criticism

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Trish McDermott, a consultant who helped found Match.com, accused Ashley Madison of being a "business built on the back of broken hearts, ruined marriages, and damaged families".[4] Biderman responded by stating that the site is "just a platform" and a website or a commercial will not convince anyone to commit adultery.[2][22] According to Biderman, affairs help preserve many marriages.[23]

Guarantee

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Ashley Madison offered a guarantee that users will "find someone": "we GUARANTEE that you will successfully find what you're looking for or we'll give you your money back."[24] To qualify, users had to purchase the most expensive package, send more expensive "priority" messages to 18 unique members each month for three months, send five Ashley Madison gifts per month, and engage in 60 minutes of paid chat per month. Compounding the problem is that "more men than women use the service, with the disparity increasing as they advance in age", and "Men seek sex, while women seek passion."[25] A page on Ashley Madison, entitled "Is Ashley Madison a scam? Is Ashley Madison a fraud?" addressed some of these issues in an attempt to win over prospective customers and teach them best practices for using the site.[26]

Segal and Millership phased out the guarantee feature on July 5, 2016. It no longer appears on the company website, advertising, or promotion.[27]

Fake female bot accounts

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According to Annalee Newitz, editor-in-chief of Gizmodo, who has analyzed the 2015 leaked data,[28] Ashley Madison had over 70,000 bots sending fake female messages to male users. They had previously released an analysis purporting to show that only a minuscule proportion (12,000 out of 5.5 million) of registered female accounts were used on a regular basis,[29][30][31] but they have subsequently disavowed this analysis, saying that from the data released there is no way of determining how many women actually used the service.[32] Newitz noted a clause in terms of service which states that "many profiles are for 'amusement only'".[31]

In 2012, a former employee claimed in a lawsuit that she was requested to create thousands of fake female accounts attractive to male customers, resulting in repetitive stress injury. The case was settled out of court.[31]

In July 2016, CEO Rob Segal and newly appointed President James Millership told Reuters that the company had phased out bots by late 2015. Segal shared an independent report by EY (Ernst & Young), which verified the phase-out.[27][33]

Advertising

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Ashley Madison employs guerrilla marketing techniques to advertise its site. One such technique has been the creation of fake criticism websites filled with ads for Ashley Madison and anonymous testimony that the site is legitimate. For example, the site "AshleyMadisonScams.com" was registered to Ashley Madison's owner, Avid Life.[34]

Ashley Madison advertises with TV commercials, billboards, and radio ads by the CEO, Noel Biderman.[2] TV ads [35] have been pulled from the air in some countries after frequent complaints.[36][37] Some proposals turned down by the companies approached include €1.5 million and $11 million jersey sponsorship deals with Italian basketball club Virtus Roma,[38] and Australian National Rugby League team the Cronulla Sharks, [39] respectively, a $10 million offer to rename Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport[40][41] and an offer for the naming rights of New Meadowlands Stadium.[42]

A statement denouncing proposed ads was made in 2009 when Ashley Madison attempted to purchase Can$200,000 worth of advertising from the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) on the Toronto streetcar system.[43] With five of six committee members voting against it, the commissioner stated "When it's a core fundamental value around cheating or lying, we're not going to let those kinds of ads go on."[44]

Also in 2009, NBC refused an ad submitted by Ashley Madison for the network's broadcast of Super Bowl XLIII.[45]

Lawsuits

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In 2012, the company was sued by former employee Doriana Silva, who stated that in preparation for the launch of the company's Portuguese-language website, she was assigned to create over a thousand bogus member profiles within three weeks to attract paying customers and that this caused her to develop repetitive strain injury. The lawsuit claimed that Silva "developed severe pain in her wrists and forearms", and had been unable to work since 2011.[46] The company countersued, alleging fraud. The company claimed that Silva had been photographed jet-skiing, an unlikely activity for someone who had suffered severe injury to the hands and forearms.[47] Ashley Madison later alleged further that Silva had kept confidential documents and sought to retrieve them. In 2015, the Ontario Superior Court dismissed the case without costs, a result with which Avi Weisman, vice-president and general counsel for Avid Life Media, said the company was "very pleased".[48]

In August 2015, after its customer records were leaked by hackers, a $576 million class-action lawsuit was filed against the company.[49]

In July 2017, the parent company of Ashley Madison agreed to pay $11.2 million to settle the class action lawsuit filed on behalf of the approximately 37 million users whose personal details were leaked.[50]

Data breach

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On July 15, 2015,[51] the site was hacked by a group known as The Impact Team. Claiming that its security had always been weak, the hackers claimed to have stolen personal information about the site's user base and threatened to release names, home addresses, search histories, and credit card numbers if the site was not immediately shut down. The demand was driven by the site's policy of not deleting users' personal information following their invoiced requests.[52]

The first release, validated by experts, occurred on August 18.[53] Another release was made on August 20, but a 13 GB file – which allegedly contained the emails of Avid Life Media CEO Noel Biderman – was corrupted.[54] This was corrected on August 21, when the Impact Team dumped Biderman's emails in a separate 19 GB file.[55]

Some users reported receiving extortion emails requesting 1.05 in bitcoin (approximately $225 at the time) to prevent the information from being shared with the user's significant other.[56][57] Clinical psychologists argued that dealing with an affair in a particularly public way increases the hurt for spouses and children.[58][59] On August 24, the Toronto Police Department spoke of "two unconfirmed reports of suicides" associated with the leak of customer profiles along with extortion attempts, offering a $500,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the hackers.[60] At least one suicide previously linked to Ashley Madison has since been reported as being due to "stress entirely related to issues at work that had no connection to the data leak".[61]

CEO Rob Segal said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the company was making ongoing investments to enhance privacy and security safeguards, including a partnership with Deloitte's cyber security team. Segal also announced new discreet payment options, including Skrill, Neteller, and Paysafe card.[27][62]

In 2024, Netflix released a three part docuseries on the data breach incident, called Ashley Madison: Sex, Lies & Scandal.

Research

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Researchers have recruited Ashley Madison users to investigate the psychological factors related to infidelity.[63][64][65] A 2023 study found that many Ashley Madison users reported sexual dissatisfaction in their primary relationship. Some of these users had affairs and those who did reported high satisfaction and low regret with their decision. These users reported still maintaining high levels of love and intimacy with their primary partners/spouses.[66]

See also

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References

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  1. ^ a b Dodgson, Lindsay. "Ashley Madison now has 60 million users. Two men told us why they use it". Insider. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e Daum, Meghan (January 10, 2009). "Ashley Madison's secret success". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 15, 2010. Retrieved January 6, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Purkayastha, Debapratim, Qumer, S. M. and Koti, Vinodbabu (2018). "Ashley Madison Hacking and the Ethics of Hacktivism". www.icmrindia.org. Retrieved July 7, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ a b Cameron, Scott (June 29, 2009). "The Infidelity App". NPR. Retrieved November 24, 2021.
  5. ^ Schwartz, Daniel. "Ashley Madison's members by the numbers". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on November 24, 2021. Retrieved November 23, 2021.
  6. ^ Thomsen, Simon. "Extramarital affair website Ashley Madison has been hacked and attackers are threatening to leak data online". Business Insider. Retrieved August 15, 2023.
  7. ^ a b "Hackers expose first Ashley Madison users". CBS News. July 22, 2015. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  8. ^ Hackers Finally Post Stolen Ashley Madison Data, wired, August 18, 2015.
  9. ^ a b "Some Dude Created an Ashley Madison Account Linked to My Gmail, and All I Got Was This Lousy Extortion Screen". The Intercept. Retrieved August 24, 2015.
  10. ^ York, Sam Thielman in New (August 28, 2015). "Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman resigns after third leak of emails". The Guardian. Retrieved October 26, 2015.
  11. ^ "Ashley Madison founder steps down". BBC News. August 28, 2015.
  12. ^ "Ashley Madison gets an ‘open-minded’ facelift". Toronto Star, November 5, 2016. Sunny Freeman.
  13. ^ "Ashley Madison's new slogan: 'Find your moment,' not 'Have an affair'". USA Today. Retrieved August 10, 2016.
  14. ^ "Ashley Madison Revamps Its Image by Toning Down Its Message of Infidelity". Ad Week. July 12, 2016. Retrieved August 10, 2016.
  15. ^ Steele, Anne (July 12, 2016). "Ashley Madison Parent Rebrands Itself as Ruby Corp". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved August 10, 2016.
  16. ^ Morgan, Richard (May 22, 2017). "Ashley Madison is back - and claims surprising user numbers". NY Post. Post Digital Network. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  17. ^ "Ashley Madison Review". Datingscout. September 5, 2024.
  18. ^ Woo, Jacqueline (October 23, 2013). "Business of ruining marriages". My Paper. Archived from the original on October 27, 2013. Retrieved October 24, 2013. The dating website that facilitates extramarital affairs between married individuals plans for a launch in Singapore next year, My Paper understands. The Canada-based website has over 21 million users worldwide. Its slogan: "Life is short. Have an affair." Ashley Madison has already expanded to other Asian countries and territories, such as Japan and, more recently, Hong Kong, in August.
  19. ^ "MDA will block access to Ashley Madison website". Channel NewsAsia. November 8, 2013.
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  22. ^ Caplan, Jeremy (June 28, 2008). "Cheating 2.0: New Mobile Apps Make Adultery Easier". Time. Archived from the original on June 30, 2009. Retrieved January 6, 2010.
  23. ^ Huang, Elaine (November 25, 2013). "11 titillating minutes with Ashley Madison renders me impressed". e27. Retrieved February 4, 2014.
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  25. ^ Niv Elis, "Cheating on your spouse in Israel just got easier", The Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Business/Business-News/Cheating-on-your-spouse-in-Israel-just-got-easier-353123
  26. ^ "Is Ashley Madison a scam? Is Ashley Madison a fraud?". Ashley Madison. Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved August 17, 2014.
  27. ^ a b c "Infidelity website Ashley Madison facing FTC probe, CEO apologizes". Reuters. July 5, 2016. Retrieved August 10, 2016.
  28. ^ Newitz, Annalee (August 27, 2015). "The FemBots of Ashley Madison". Gizmodo. Retrieved August 28, 2015.
  29. ^ Pelt, Mason (November 9, 2015). "Ashley Madison 'the most interesting hack' says John McAfee". siliconangle.com. SiliconANGLE. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
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  32. ^ Annalee Newitz, "Ashley Madison Code Shows More Women, and More Bots", Gizmodo, August 31, 2015, https://gizmodo.com/ashley-madison-code-shows-more-women-and-more-bots-1727613924. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
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  34. ^ Hill, Kashmir (February 12, 2011). "Ashley Madison: Lessons In Promoting a Sleazy Business". Forbes.
  35. ^ Lara O'Reilly (March 6, 2015). "Here's the cringe-worthy ad for affair site Ashley Madison that was pulled for 'vilifying women'". Business Insider Australia.
  36. ^ "TV ad for infidelity dating website Ashley Madison pulled from air". mUmBRELLA. June 2010.
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  38. ^ "Andrea Bargnani: Don't Believe the Hype About Virtus Roma, Ashley Madison, and Me". BallInEurope.com. November 20, 2011. Archived from the original on April 4, 2012. Retrieved October 21, 2011.
  39. ^ "Ashley Madison offer Cronulla Sharks $11 million sponsorship deal". February 2014.
  40. ^ Wong, Scott (February 22, 2010). "Phoenix rejects $10M offer from infidelity Web site". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved March 3, 2010.
  41. ^ Fisher, Katie (February 23, 2010). "Risque website offers $10 million for Sky Harbor name change". ABC15. Archived from the original on February 25, 2010. Retrieved March 3, 2010.
  42. ^ "NFL Stadium Offered $25M to Promote Adultery". TMZ.com. May 30, 2010. Archived from the original on August 11, 2010. Retrieved September 23, 2010.
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  45. ^ Hill, Catey (January 29, 2009). "Banned! These ads are too racy for the Super Bowl". The New York Daily News. Retrieved January 6, 2010.
  46. ^ Paola Loriggio (November 10, 2013). "Woman hurt typing fake profiles for dating site, $20M suit alleges". CityNews. Retrieved April 13, 2013.
  47. ^ Jim Edwards (November 11, 2013). "Ashley Madison Says Woman Who Alleges She Hurt Her Wrists Writing Fake Profiles Later Rode A Jet Ski". Business Insider. Retrieved April 13, 2015.
  48. ^ Lawsuit against dating site for married people seeking affairs dismissed, at The Globe And Mail; published January 18, 2015. Retrieved April 13, 2015
  49. ^ Ashley Madison faces huge class-action lawsuit – 23 August 2015
  50. ^ "Ashley Madison parent in $11.2 million settlement over data breach". Reuters. July 14, 2017. Retrieved October 10, 2019.
  51. ^ "Online Cheating Site AshleyMadison Hacked". krebsonsecurity.com. July 15, 2015. Retrieved July 20, 2015.
  52. ^ Thomsen, Simon (July 20, 2015). "Extramarital affair website Ashley Madison has been hacked and attackers are threatening to leak data online". Business Insider. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  53. ^ "Ashley Madison condemns attack as experts say hacked database is real". The Guardian. August 19, 2015. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
  54. ^ "Hackers leak second trove of Ashley Madison hack, 20 Gigs this time". Techworm.net. August 21, 2015. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  55. ^ "Hackers Just Posted a Third Dump of Alleged Ashley Madison Data". Motherboard. August 21, 2015. Retrieved August 21, 2015.
  56. ^ Segall, Laurie (January 8, 2015). "Ashley Madison users now facing extortion – Aug. 21, 2015". CNN. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
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  58. ^ Gregoire, Carolyn (August 20, 2015). "Ashley Madison Hack Could Have A Devastating Psychological Fallout". HuffPost.
  59. ^ "The Ashley Madison hack – further thoughts on its aftermath". Graham Cluley. July 28, 2015.
  60. ^ "Ashley Madison: 'Suicides' over website hack". BBC. August 24, 2015. Retrieved August 21, 2015.
  61. ^ Beltran, Jacob (August 25, 2015). "Widow addresses suicide of SAPD captain linked to Ashley Madison site". Mysa. San Antonio Express News. Retrieved August 27, 2015.
  62. ^ "Toronto-based Ashley Madison gets a new leadership team, but also U.S. FTC probe". Retrieved August 10, 2016.
  63. ^ Thompson, Ashley E.; Wilder, Delaney; Kulibert, Danica (November 22, 2021). "Examining Variations in Participation and Outcomes of Consensual and Nonconsensual Extradyadic Behavior among Ashley Madison Users". The Journal of Sex Research. 58 (9): 1194–1204. doi:10.1080/00224499.2021.1908509. ISSN 0022-4499. PMID 33871291.
  64. ^ Ashdown, Brien K; Hackathorn, Jana M; Daniels, Jordan (May 4, 2019). "Scandalous: Christian identification, sex guilt, and the mediated demonization of the participants in the AshleyMadison scandal". The Journal of Social Psychology. 159 (3): 244–256. doi:10.1080/00224545.2018.1461603. ISSN 0022-4545. PMID 29624117.
  65. ^ Sharabi, Liesel L.; Uhlich, Maximiliane; Alexopoulos, Cassandra; Timmermans, Elisabeth (July 1, 2021). "Exploring Links Between Online Infidelity, Mate Poaching Intentions, and the Likelihood of Meeting Offline". Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. 24 (7): 450–456. doi:10.1089/cyber.2020.0563. ISSN 2152-2715. PMID 34171960.
  66. ^ Hedrih, Vladimir (May 1, 2023). "Ashley Madison users have little moral regret about sexual infidelity while expressing high levels of love for their spouses". PsyPost. Retrieved May 3, 2023.
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