Website Promoting Affairs Drops Controversial Fee

John Lister's picture

Hackers who stole data from a website promoting extra-marital affairs say they did so to promote misleading claims. The Ashley Madison site has responded by dropping a controversial fee to delete user accounts.

The site openly promotes itself as appealing to people who want to arrange dates online where at least one party is already in a relationship. Not surprisingly, that setup brings added interest in keeping client details confidential.

Earlier this week attackers claimed to have breached security and got access to the records of a supposed 33 million members around the world. They've already published some details from 2,500 member records. Security experts suggest the hacking was extremely sophisticated and may have taken months to plan and carry out.

The hackers, who use the name Impact Team, have said the leaking of data is intended to draw attention to "cheating dirtbags."

Users Charged To Delete Accounts

The incident has drawn attention to the way the site charges $15 (and more in some foreign countries) to delete an account, rather than merely deactivate it. The site's management says the fee covers the removal not just of the account, but of all images and messages sent to other users.

However, the hackers say that one of the records they discovered and released was of a member who'd used the paid delete option, suggesting the data hadn't actually been removed. While it hasn't publicly commented on this specific claim, Ashley Madison has now dropped the fee and will let users delete their data without charge.

Credit Card Laws May Hamper Deletion

There's now some debate about whether a company really can promise to completely delete data. One argument is that it's impossible to do so as financial regulations in some countries mean companies which collect credit card details must hold on to the data for up to seven years. In turn, those details can be used to identify an individual. (Source: cbc.ca)

It's also possible any users who have had their identity revealed in the attacks might take legal action, particularly with some dispute about claims the site made over the nature and extent of the attack. However, such users may be wary about drawing further attention to their membership of the site. (Source: theguardian.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Does the nature of the Ashley Madison site change the level of privacy users should expect? Is it reasonable to charge a fee to fully delete an account, even assuming that's possible? Can hacking a site and exposing security flaws ever be justified?

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Comments

Dennis Faas's picture

When I think of websites like Ashley Madison, I think of everything that is wrong with the Internet, followed by a fat, greedy businessman without morals that is raking in tons of cash exploiting the sheer stupidity of others. That said, charging for account deletion is absolutely ridiculous and I hope this won't be the only hack their website suffers.

gbruce40_3626's picture

I agree fully with your comments John.

Does the nature of the Ashley Madison site change the level of privacy users should expect?.... Yes certainly, although sites like Ashley Madison deserve it, what a bunch of dirt-bags. However it would appear that no site can improve the level of security, including Government sites. What we need is a major overhaul of the internet to make it safer. This Hacking is getting out of control and will cause major world problems in the future.

guitardogg's picture

While I don't agree with their philosophy, Ashley Madison has just as much right to operate as a funny cat video web site! As long as they are honest with their subscribers (which includes NOT charging for account deletion), and put forth a reasonable effort to protect users' privacy, they should have the freedom to operate. Anyone who signs up for a site like this knows what they getting into (or at least they agree to take the risk). Freedom of speech, which I believe includes the internet, is a doubled-edged sword. We need to put up with stuff we find distasteful, so we all have the freedom to say (or watch) whatever we want. If I had my way, all cat videos would be banned from the internet, but then I'd have to let someone ban all the cute dog videos.

ifpusr's picture

people immune to dog/cat cuteness are dangerous sociopaths who should be sent to prison colonies on exoplanets

infopackets.com_4228's picture

Morals of the membership aside, it's acceptable to charge to delete an account so long as that was made clear when a user signed-up.
If users expected when signing-up to be able to leave and be deleted in the future for free, they should not spring a charge on departing members.

It's wrong, criminal even, to charge for a service (deletion) which is not performed, and I would like to see action taken against the site for this fraud. Hopefully some members, perhaps those now divorced, are brave enough to bring a claim.

ifpusr's picture

thank you attackers. keep up the good work