The potential ramifications of the data breach involving the cheating dating website Ashley Madison were discussed previously on this blog soon after the leak occurred. Many relationships and divorce professionals speculated there would be an increase in either marriage counseling or divorce if people saw their spouses’ names on the list of Ashley Madison clients. The full effects for residents in Virginia and elsewhere are still not known. However, various forms of legal action are already underway.
At least two lawsuits against the dating site have been filed in California and Maryland. One user has filed a class-action lawsuit, alleging unfair and fraudulent business practices and asking for $5 million. Which part of the business’s operations was unfair to customers who knew they were signing up for an infidelity site? Several data experts have claimed Ashley Madison executives were setting up fake accounts for female bots, tricking men into thinking there were far more female subscribers than there actually were. The site claimed 5.5 million users were women but the lawsuit argues the real number was close to 12,000.
Recently, a data scientist found evidence that Ashley Madison used only six email addresses to create thousands of false accounts. The site was then accused of employing deceitful tactics, such as the fake bots sending private messages to subscribers, enticing them to pay to read the messages. This practice may have been lucrative for the company – a leaked graph showed that the company’s monthly revenue substantially increased after the bots were put in use.
Other former members of the site have demanded refunds since the data breach, although it is not known whether they received their money back. There may continue to be an emotional and legal backlash if more spouses discover their partners belonged to the site.
Source: Daily Mail, “Aspiring adulterer sues Ashley Madison for misrepresenting its number of female users,” Kelly McLaughlin and Wills Robinson, Nov. 2, 2015