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Ashley Madison is an adult matchmaking and social networking site that bills itself as an online dating service for people who are in committed relationships and seeking extramarital or polyamorous affairs.
In 2001, the website was launched under the domain AshleyMadison.com by CEO and former sports agent Noah Biderman, who claims to have come up with the idea for the site after witnessing several athlete clients cheating on their spouses. The site was named after two of the previous year’s most popular female names in the United States.
Anyone may sign up for free on Ashley Madison to search local members, but premium profiles are required for additional features. To message another user, credits must be spent to initiate a conversation. Unlike many dating sites, users must fill in their weight and body type at the time of signup, and most do not post photographs to avoid identification. There have been many accusations of Ashley Madison profiles being populated by employees of the company attempting to entice prospective customers with fake profiles.
In 2009, NBC refused to broadcast an Ashley Madison advertisement during the Super Bowl XLIII. In December that year, the Toronto Transit Commission rejected an Ashley Madison’s attempt to purchase $200,000 worth of ads with the slogan “Life is short. Have an affair” on city streetcars. In February 2010, the city of Phoenix, Arizona rejected a $10 million offer by the website to rename the Sky Harbor Airport to Ashley Madison International Airport for five years.
Workplace Injury Lawsuit
In 2012, former employee Doriana Silva sued the company for assigning her to create more than 1,000 fake profiles, which she claimed led her to develop repetitive stress injury in her wrists and forearms. In 2015, the case was dismissed by the Ontario Superior Court.
Ban in Singapore
Following the company's announcement to launch in Singapore in 2014, the Singapore Media Development Authority ruled that it would not allow the website to operate in the country, saying "it promote adultery and disregards family values."
2015 Data Breach
In mid-July 2015, many large caches of data on Ashley Madison were compromised by a group identified as The Impact Team, which claimed to have stolen the company's user database information, financial records and other sensitive information. On July 20th, Ashley Madison's parent company Avid Life Media posted a statement about the security breach, noting that the company had closed the vulnerability and would waive the account deletion fee for all members. By the following day, 2,500 customer records were released by the hacker group.
On August 18th, 2015, a file containing 9.7 gigabytes of data from the breach was posted to sites on the deep web, which included log-ins, account information and payment transactions for 32 million Ashley Madison users. The leak contained a message noting that many of the site profile were fake, and urged users to sue the company for failing to protect their personal information:
"Avid Life Media has failed to take down Ashley Madison and Established Men. We have explained the fraud, deceit, and stupidity of ALM and their members. Now everyone gets to see their data.
Find someone you know in here? Keep in mind the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles. See ashley madison fake profile lawsuit; 90-95% of actual users are male. Chances are your man signed up on the world’s biggest affair site, but never had one. He just tried to. If that distinction matters.
Find yourself in here? It was ALM that failed you and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages. Then move on with your life. Learn your lesson and make amends. Embarrassing now, but you’ll get over it."
That day, a site was launched for users to search the leaked data for specific email addresses (shown below).
Meanwhile, Twitter us @t0x0pg provided an breakdown of the emails contained within the leak, noting that there were over 15,000 accounts registered from United States military and government email addresses. On August 19th, NBC News reported that Avid Life Media confirmed that some of the data released was authentic.
Within 24 hours of the leak, two accounts for reality television personality Josh Duggar were discovered. On August 20th, Duggar released a statement in which he confessed to being unfaithful to his wife:
I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the internet and this became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife. I brought hurt and a reproach to my family, close friends and the fans of our show with my actions that happened when I was 14-15 years old, and now I have re-broken their trust.
The same day, CNN aired a segment on the Duggar accounts (shown below).
Also on August 20th, The Daily Mail reported that the PR company Reputation Management Consultants had been contacted by "famous and wealthy people" to help manage the fallout from the leaked profiles. Meanwhile, The Times-Picayune reported that Louisiana GOP executive director Jason Doré claimed to have created an Ashley Madison account for the purposes of "opposition research."
"As the state's leading opposition research firm, our law office routinely searches public records, online databases and websites of all types to provide clients with comprehensive reports."
On August 23rd, CNN reported that Florida state attorney Jeff Ashton, known for being the lead prosecutor in the Casey Anthony trial, had confessed to using the website after his personal information was discovered in the data dump.
"Two years ago, I was curious about the Ashley Madison website, and I used my personal credit card to sign up for the site. I deeply regret my affiliation with the site, which has caused a great amount of stress and heartache to my wife and children. I want to publicly apologize to each of them for this embarrassment and for my blatant disregard for their feelings."
On August 24th, the Toronto police department held a press conference regarding their investigation of the data breach. During the conference, Toronto Sun reporter Maryan Shah provided live updates via her Twitter feed, revealing that Avid Life Media was offering a $500,000 bounty for information about the hackers (shown below).
On August 24th, The Daily Mail reported that two suicides had been linked to the Ashley Madison account leaks, including San Antonio police officer Captain Michael Gorhim and an unnamed individual disclosed by the Toronto police department.
As of July 2015, AshleyMadison.com had a global Alexa rank of 1,120, and a United States rank of 872.
 The Daily Mail – Hollywood actor, NFL star and a top politician are among celebrities
 The Daily Mail – "Two suicides linked to Ashley Madison leak ":http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3208907/The-Ashley-Madison-suicide-Texas-police-chief-takes-life-just-days-email-leaked-cheating-website-hack.html