The CEO of Ashley Madison, Noel Biderman, resigned on Aug 20 after a group of hackers released 36 million users’ names and personal information. In addition, the hack also leaked the emails of many leaders in the company, including Noel Biderman himself. Government employees, military personnel and religious leaders alike have had their email addresses revealed to be associated with the controversial website.
The website itself is a dating site, but it’s not a normal one. As opposed to sites such as Match.com and eHarmony, Ashley Madison isn’t helping you search for someone you want to marry. They assume you’ve already married someone and still want more.
The motto of the website is, “Life is short. Have an affair.” According to Ashley Madison itself there are more than 40.5 million members searching for infidelity on this dating platform. Although the number of active profiles is only about half of that number, that is still quite unsettling.
In addition, of the 20 million or so active profiles, only 12,000 are females. This is despite the fact that the services provided by Ashley Madison are free for females, whereas men must pay a fee to join. The company states that the ratio of men to women on their site is 1.2 to 1, but they use a trick to get those numbers to turn out in their favor.
According to Annalee Newitz, who analyzed the leaked data, nine thousand false female accounts on the website were created using emails such as firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and so on.
Furthermore, Newitz looked at patterns with the IP addresses, which can reveal the location of the computer used to open an account. She found that the second most common IP address referred to a “home” computer that likely belonged to Ashley Madison. 82% of the accounts made using this IP address were female, whereas only 15% of all of the accounts on the website are female. This vast difference is assuredly cause for suspicion.
However, in spite of the many failings and the moral ambiguity of Ashley Madison, I’m not sure the hackers brought about justice in the right way.
Some of the people who were revealed to have had accounts on this website could have been on it for other reasons besides being unfaithful to their spouses.
Some spouses agree to an open marriage, in which both partners can stray if they wish. The website also has an option for single men and women to join.
Additionally, and very importantly, Ashley Madison does not require the email address used to create the account to be confirmed.
Therefore, some of the government employee email addresses that were found within the 36 million users could have easily been used by completely different people not wanting to use their own emails on the secretive website.
The hackers, who call themselves “The Impact Team,” publicly shamed these innocent people along with the others. Although the second leak rightly exposed the leaders in the company and caused Noel Biderman, the self-proclaimed “King of Infidelity,” to step down, the first leak ruined the reputations of people who may very well have been innocent.