Ashley Madison

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Ashley Madison
Ashley Madison logo.jpg
Web address
Slogan Life is short. Have an affair.
Commercial? Yes
Type of site
Online dating service
Social network service
Registration Yes
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)[1]
Owner Avid Life Media
Launched 2001[2]
Alexa rank
1,102 (July 2015)[3]
Current status Active

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."[4] The website was launched in 2001.[2][5] The name of the site was created from two popular female names, "Ashley" and "Madison".[4]

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 were not permanently closed. By July 22, the first names of customers were released by hackers,[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9]


Ashley Madison is a membership website and service based in Canada; its membership includes 39 million people in 53 countries.[6]

Location Countries
North America Canada, USA,[10] Mexico[11]
South America Argentina,[10] Brazil,[10] Chile,[10] Colombia,[10] Peru,[10] Venezuela[10]
Western Europe United Kingdom,[10] Ireland,[12] Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, France, Belgium, Portugal, Greece, Sweden, Finland, Norway,[10] Luxembourg[10]
Eastern Europe and Central Asia Latvia,[10] Slovakia,[10] Poland,[10] Hungary,[10] Estonia,[10] Czech Republic,[10] Russia,[10] Crimea,[10] Ukraine,[10] Belarus,[10] Kazakhstan[10]
Oceania Australia,[13] New Zealand[10]
Subsaharan Africa South Africa[14]
East and Southeast Asia Hong Kong,[1] Macau,[10] China,[10] Japan, Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand,[10] Singapore,[10]
South Asia India, Pakistan[10]
Middle East and North Africa Israel,[10] Turkey[10]

The company announced plans to launch in Singapore in 2014.[1] 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".[15]

Business model[edit]

Unlike 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.[16]

Several aspects of Ashley Madison are described in the Terms and Conditions as "For Your Entertainment."[17] 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".[18] 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.[19]

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.[8][17] The "full delete" option claims to remove user profiles, all messages sent and received, site usage history, personally identifiable information, and photos.[20] 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, 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.[4][21] According to Biderman, affairs help preserve many marriages.[22]


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"[23] 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.[24] 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] 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".[26]

Fake female accounts[edit]

According to Annalee Newitz, Editor-in-Chief of Gizmodo, who has analyzed the 2015 leaked data,[27] 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,[28][28][29] 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.[30]

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' ".[29]

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.[29]


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 "" is registered to Ashley Madison owner Avid Life.[31]

Ashley Madison advertises with TV commercials, billboards, and radio ads by the CEO, Noel Biderman.[4] TV ads, described as cringe-worthy,[32] have been pulled from the air in some countries after frequent complaints.[33][34] Some proposals turned down by the companies approached include a €1.5 million jersey sponsorship deal with Italian basketball club Virtus Roma,[35] a $10 million offer to rename Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport[36][37] and an offer for the naming rights of New Meadowlands Stadium.[38]

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.[39] 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."[40] Biderman offered to subsidize the TTC fare rate to $2.50 from $2.75 but the offer was declined.

Also in 2009, NBC refused an ad submitted by Ashley Madison for the network's broadcast of Super Bowl XLIII.[41]


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.[42] 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.[43] 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".[44]

In August 2015, after its customer records were leaked by hackers, a $576 million class-action lawsuit was filed against the company.[45]

Data breach[edit]

On July 15, 2015,[46] 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.[47]

The first release, validated by experts, occurred on August 18.[48] 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.[49] This was corrected on August 21, when the Impact Team dumped Biderman's emails in a separate 19 GB file.[50]

Some users reported receiving extortion emails[51] requesting 1.05 in bitcoins (exactly C$300) to prevent the information from being shared with the user's significant other.[52] Clinical psychologists argued that dealing with an affair in a particularly public way increases the hurt for spouses and children.[53][54] 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.[55] 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".[56]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c 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. 
  2. ^ a b Pearson, Patricia. "The Two-Timers Club". Toronto Life. Archived from the original on 21 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-21. 
  3. ^ " Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved July 22, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d Daum, Meghan (2001-01-10). "Ashley Madison's secret success". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 15 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  5. ^ "When Cheating On Your Spouse Is Business". ABC News. Archived from the original on 9 November 2004. Retrieved 2004-10-21. 
  6. ^ a b "Hackers expose first Ashley Madison users". CBS News. July 22, 2015. Retrieved July 23, 2015. 
  7. ^ Hackers Finally Post Stolen Ashley Madison Data, wired, 2015-08-18.
  8. ^ 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 24 August 2015. 
  9. ^ "Ashley Madison founder steps down". BBC News. 28 August 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac "Ashley Madison". Retrieved 2013-10-24. 
  11. ^ "Mexican presidential candidate becomes poster boy for infidelity". NBC News. Reuters. June 6, 2012. Retrieved 2013-10-24. 
  12. ^ "I got married three months ago. Then last month, I logged on to an infidelity website". The Irish Independent. 11 October 2010. Retrieved 2013-10-24. 
  13. ^ Robinson, Georgina (2010-04-13). "Ashley Madison site launches in Australia". Retrieved 2013-10-24. 
  14. ^ "There is no typical SA cheater". Times LIVE. 2012-08-04. Retrieved 2013-10-24. 
  15. ^ "MDA will block access to Ashley Madison website". Channel NewsAsia. November 8, 2013. 
  16. ^ "What is a Collect message". Retrieved August 17, 2014. 
  17. ^ a b "Ashley Madison Terms _Conditions". Ashley Madison. 2013-10-21. Archived from the original on 2015-07-22. Retrieved 2015-08-25. 
  18. ^ "Ashley Madison Terms _Conditions". Ashley Madison. 2013-10-21. Archived from the original on 2013-11-09. Retrieved 2015-08-25. 
  19. ^ Van Badham (July 21, 2015). "It hurts, but I’m going to defend Ashley Madison and 33 million adulterers". The Guardian. Retrieved July 20, 2015. 
  20. ^ "Ashley Madison's $19 'full delete' option made the company millions". Retrieved August 24, 2015. 
  21. ^ Caplan, Jeremy (2008-06-28). "Cheating 2.0: New Mobile Apps Make Adultery Easier". Time. Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  22. ^ Huang, Elaine (November 25, 2013). "11 titillating minutes with Ashley Madison renders me impressed". e27. Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  23. ^ "Is Ashley Madison a scam? Is Ashley Madison a fraud?", retrieved 2014-08-17
  24. ^
  25. ^ Niv Elis, "Cheating on your spouse in Israel just got easier", "Jerusalem Post", May 22, 2014,
  26. ^ "Is Ashley Madison a scam? Is Ashley Madison a fraud?",, retrieved 2014-08-17
  27. ^ Newitz, Annalee (27 August 2015). "The FemBots of Ashley Madison". Gizmodo. Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  28. ^ a b Reed, Brad (27 August 2015). "The most hilarious revelation about the Ashley Madison hack yet". Yahoo! Tech. Retrieved 28 August 2015. 
  29. ^ a b c Gallagher, Paul (27 August 2015). "Ashley Madison hack: Just three in every 10,000 female accounts on infidelity website are real". The Independent. 
  30. ^ Annalee Newitz, "Ashley Madison Code Shows More Women, and More Bots", Gizmodo, August 31, 2015,, retrieved September 12, 2015.
  31. ^ Hill, Kashmir (February 12, 2011). "Ashley Madison: Lessons In Promoting a Sleazy Business". Forbes. 
  32. ^ Lara O'Reilly. "Here's the cringe-worthy ad for affair site Ashley Madison that was pulled for 'vilifying women'". Business Insider Australia. 
  33. ^ "TV ad for infidelity dating website Ashley Madison pulled from air". mUmBRELLA. 
  34. ^ "Ashley Madison ad degrading to wives, rules Ad Standards Board". mUmBRELLA. 
  35. ^ "Andrea Bargnani: Don't Believe the Hype About Virtus Roma, Ashley Madison, and Me". 2011-11-20. Retrieved 2011-10-21. 
  36. ^ Wong, Scott (2010-02-22). "Phoenix rejects $10M offer from infidelity Web site". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  37. ^ Fisher, Katie (2010-02-23). "Risque website offers $10 million for Sky Harbor name change". ABC15. Archived from the original on 25 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-03. 
  38. ^ "NFL Stadium Offered $25M to Promote Adultery". 2010-05-30. Archived from the original on 11 August 2010. Retrieved 2010-09-23. 
  39. ^ Peat, Don (2009-12-11). "TTC dumps Ashley Madison". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  40. ^ Edwards, Jim (2009-12-16). "No Streetcars Named Desire: Toronto Bans Adultery Ads on Public Transit". Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  41. ^ Hill, Catey (2009-01-29). "Banned! These ads are too racy for the Super Bowl". The New York Daily News. Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  42. ^ Paola Loriggio (November 10, 2013). "Woman hurt typing fake profiles for dating site, $20M suit alleges". CityNews. Retrieved April 13, 2013. 
  43. ^ 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. 
  44. ^ Lawsuit against dating site for married people seeking affairs dismissed, at The Globe And Mail; published 18 Jan 2015. Retrieved 13 April 2015
  45. ^ Ashley Madison faces huge class-action lawsuit - 23 August 2015
  46. ^ "Online Cheating Site AshleyMadison Hacked". 2015-07-15. Retrieved 2015-07-20. 
  47. ^ Thomsen,Simon (20 Jul 2015). "Extramarital affair website Ashley Madison has been hacked and attackers are threatening to leak data online". Business Insider. Retrieved 21 Jul 2015. 
  48. ^ "Ashley Madison condemns attack as experts say hacked database is real". The Guardian. 19 August 2015. Retrieved 19 August 2015. 
  49. ^ August 21, 2015 12:59 pm. "Hackers leak second trove of Ashley Madison hack, 20 Gigs this time". Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  50. ^ "Hackers Just Posted a Third Dump of Alleged Ashley Madison Data". Motherboard. 21 August 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  51. ^ Segall, Laurie (2015-01-08). "Ashley Madison users now facing extortion - Aug. 21, 2015". Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  52. ^ "@TorontoPolice News Conference Re: Ashley Madison Website Hack". Toronto Police. 2015-08-24. Retrieved 2015-08-24. 
  53. ^ Gregoire, Carolyn (20 August 2015). "Ashley Madison Hack Could Have A Devastating Psychological Fallout". The Huffington Post. 
  54. ^ "The Ashley Madison hack - further thoughts on its aftermath". Graham Cluley. 
  55. ^ "Ashley Madison: 'Suicides' over website hack". BBC. 24 August 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2015. 
  56. ^ Beltran, Jacob (2015-08-25). "Widow addresses suicide of SAPD captain linked to Ashley Madison site". San Antonio Express News. Retrieved 2015-08-27. 

External links[edit]