|Slogan||Life is short. Have an affair.|
Type of site
|Online dating service
Social network service
|Available in||Chinese (simplified and traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Filipino, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazilian and European), Russian, Slovenian, Spanish (European, American), Swedish, Turkish, Ukrainian|
|Users||More than 37 million (as of July 2015[update])|
|Owner||Avid Life Media|
|1,102 (July 2015[update])|
Ashley Madison is a Canada-based online dating service and social networking service marketed to people who are married or in a committed relationship. Its slogan is "Life is short. Have an affair." The website was launched in 2001. The name of the site was created from two popular female names, "Ashley" and "Madison".
The company received attention on July 15, 2015, after hackers stole all of its customer data—including emails, names, home addresses, sexual fantasies and credit card information—and threatened to post all the data online if Ashley Madison and fellow Avid Life Media site EstablishedMen.com were not permanently closed. By July 22, the first names of customers were released by hackers, 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 earlier paid a $19 fee to Ashley Madison to allegedly have their data deleted. 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.
On August 28, 2015, Noel Biderman, the founder and chief executive of the company, stepped down. A statement released by the firm said his departure was "in the best interest of the company". The parent company Avid Life Media, which owns the site, has offered a reward of C$500,000 (£240,000) for information about the Ashley Madison hackers.
|North America||Canada, USA, Mexico|
|South America||Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela|
|Western Europe||United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, France, Belgium, Portugal, Greece, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Luxembourg|
|Eastern Europe and Central Asia||Latvia, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Estonia, Czech Republic, Russia, Crimea, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan|
|Oceania||Australia, New Zealand|
|Subsaharan Africa||South Africa|
|East and Southeast Asia||Hong Kong, Macau, China, Japan, Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore,|
|South Asia||India, Pakistan|
|Middle East and North Africa||Israel, Turkey|
The company announced plans to launch in Singapore in 2014. However, Singapore's Media Development Authority (MDA) announced that it will not allow Ashley Madison to operate in Singapore as "it promotes adultery and disregards family values".
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—almost always the man—must pay five credits to initiate the conversation. Any follow-up messages between the two members are free after the communication has been initiated. Ashley Madison also has a real-time chat feature that is metered. Credits are utilised to pay for a certain time allotment of chat. Women can send messages to men for free, but the men must pay to read them.
Several aspects of Ashley Madison are described in the Terms and Conditions as "For Your Entertainment." This included Ashley's Angels, a feature that generates fictitious females profiles to simulate communication with male members and "perform market research". According to the site, Ashley's Angels accounts "are NOT conspicuously identified as such". Ashley's Angels profiles are limited to messaging only guest accounts, and registered users can opt out of the feature via their profile management page. However, users are charged the standard rate to read messages from and chat with these fictitious profiles. These computer-generated female profiles make it seem that more women participate than really do.
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. The "full delete" option claims to remove user profiles, all messages sent and received, site usage history, personally identifiable information, and photos. The data disclosures in 2015 revealed that this "permanent deletion" feature did not permanently delete anything, and all data was recoverable.
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". Biderman responded by stating that the site is "just a platform" and a website or a commercial will not convince anyone to commit adultery. According to Biderman, affairs help preserve many marriages.
Ashley Madison offers a guarantee that you will "find someone": "we GUARANTEE that you will successfully find what you’re looking for or we'll give you your money back" In order to qualify, users must purchase the most expensive package, send more expensive "priority" messages to 18 unique members each month for three months, send 5 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." This is not revealed to prospective users. It is obvious from a page on the Ashley Madison site itself that many men feel "ripped off".
Fake female accounts
According to Annalee Newitz, Editor-in-Chief of Gizmodo, who has analyzed the 2015 leaked data, Ashley Madison had over 70,000 bots (small computer programs) sending fake female messages to male users. She had previously released an analysis purporting to show that only a minuscule proportion (12,000 out of 5.5 million) registered female accounts were used on a regular basis, but she has subsequently disavowed this analysis, saying that from the data released there is no way of determining how many women actually used the service.
Newitz noted a clause in the terms of service which states that some accounts are for amusement purposes only. She says Ashley Madison does not go far as to say they are fake, but "does admit that many profiles are for 'amusement only' ".
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 settled out of court.
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 "www.AshleyMadisonScams.com" is registered to Ashley Madison owner Avid Life.
Ashley Madison advertises with TV commercials, billboards, and radio ads by the CEO, Noel Biderman. TV ads, described as cringe-worthy, have been pulled from the air in some countries after frequent complaints. Some proposals turned down by the companies approached include a €1.5 million jersey sponsorship deal with Italian basketball club Virtus Roma, a $10 million offer to rename Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport and an offer for the naming rights of New Meadowlands Stadium.
A statement denouncing proposed ads was made in 2009 when Ashley Madison attempted to purchase C$200,000 worth of advertising from the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) on the Toronto streetcar system. 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." Biderman offered to subsidize the TTC fare rate to $2.50 from $2.75 but the offer was declined.
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 a three-week period in order to attract paying customers, and that this caused her to develop repetitive stress injury. The lawsuit claimed that as a result Silva "developed severe pain in her wrists and forearms", and has been unable to work since 2011. Ashley Madison countersued, alleging fraud. The company claimed that Silva had been photographed skiing, an activity that was unlikely for someone who had suffered serious injury to the hands and forearms. 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".
On July 15, 2015, the site was hacked by a group known as "The Impact Team". Claiming that the 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.
The first release, validated by experts, occurred on August 18. 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. This was corrected on August 21, when the Impact Team dumped Biderman's emails in a separate 19 GB file.
Some users reported receiving extortion emails requesting 1.05 in bitcoins (exactly C$300) to prevent the information from being shared with the user's significant other. Clinical psychologists argued that dealing with an affair in a particularly public way increases the hurt for spouses and children. 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. 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".
- Comparison of online dating websites
- Illicit Encounters, a similar UK online dating website for married people
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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.
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