|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 due to a mistyped email address.
On 28 August 2015, Noel Biderman the Founder and chief executive of the company has 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".
In response to the ban in Singapore, CEO Noel Biderman told online tech publication e27 that he thinks prohibitions will always backfire. He said, "It’s not too conservative, it’s not too challenging. I think this is an anomaly. We have had success in Japan and Hong Kong. We will have success in Taiwan and Korea. We will find a way to bring this to the Philippines and Thailand. And ultimately, I genuinely believe Ashley Madison will be available to anyone in Singapore who wants to access it. I really believe that."
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 generated fictitious profiles to simulate communication with real members and perform market research. According to the site, Ashley's Angels accounts "are NOT conspicuously identified as such." Ashley's Angels profiles were limited to messaging only guest accounts and users could opt out of the feature via their profile management page. Users were charged the standard rate to read messages from and chat with these fictitious profiles.
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, have to pay a $19 fee. The full delete option claimed to remove user profiles, all messages sent and received, site usage history, personally identifiable information, and photos from the site. The data disclosures in 2015 disclosed that this "permanent deletion" feature did not delete anything, and all data was recoverable.
Imbalance between male and female users
Female profiles on the site don't require their users to pay to send or receive messages. An analysis by Gizmodo of hacked accounts shows that while there were 31 million male accounts, there were only 5.5 million female accounts, and only 12,108 women paid to delete their account, and less than one percent of the female accounts were active for more than one day. While 20 million users of male accounts checked their messages, only 1,492 users of female accounts did, and while 11 million users of male accounts used the chat system, only 2,409 users of female ones did.
Some commentators have speculated that the majority of female accounts were created by spouses to check whether husbands were on the site, or as a workplace prank, or journalists or private investigators. The female accounts are "overwhelmingly inactive"
The gender disparity is not revealed to prospective users. Furthermore, Ashley Madison routinely uses computer-generated female "profiles" to make it seem that more women participate than really do.
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.
Annalee Newitz, Editor-in-Chief of Gizmodo, analyzed the 2015 leaked data. She found that about 12,000 of the 5.5 million registered female accounts were used on a regular basis, about 3 in every 1000 (0.3%). The remaining were used only one time, the day they were registered. She also found that a very high number of the women's accounts were created from the same IP numbers suggesting there were many fake accounts. She found women checked email messages very infrequently, for every 1 time a women checked her email, 13,585 men checked theirs. Only 9,700 of the 5 million female account had ever replied to a message, compared to the 5.9 million men who would do the same. She concluded that "The women's accounts show so little activity that they might as well not be there".
Annalee 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 has been criticized for "guerrilla advertising", such as advertising within what are ostensibly anti-Ashley Madison campaigns. For example, the site "www.AshleyMadisonScams.com" is in fact 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 approached companies include a €1.5 million jersey sponsorship deal with Italian basketball club Virtus Roma, a $10 million offer to rename 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. 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
- Woo, Jacqueline (October 23, 2013). "Business of ruining marriages". My Paper. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
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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It’s not too conservative, it’s not too challenging. I think this is an anomaly. We have had success in Japan and Hong Kong. We will have success in Taiwan and Korea. We will find a way to bring this to the Philippines and Thailand. And ultimately, I genuinely believe Ashley Madison will be available to anyone in Singapore who wants to access it. I really believe that.
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