Ashley Madison misled users with a fake security award

The site showed the award before getting hit by a massive breach last year, watchdogs say

It’s never a good sign when a website markets itself with a phony security award. But that’s what Ashley Madison did prior to last year’s massive data breach.

On Monday, privacy officials in Canada and Australia found that the Canadian adultery website used deceptive and confusing practices to make customers think the service was secure.

Privacy authorities from both countries have been investigating Ashley Madison following last year’s hack, which exposed personal data on 36 million users, including names, credit card numbers, and in some cases, their sexual fantasies. 

Although Ashley Madison had been promoting discreet extramarital affairs, the site itself used security practices that fell short of accepted standards and privacy laws, the investigation found.

One problem was the use of a medal icon on the website labeled “trusted security award.” The company behind Ashley Madison later admitted that the award was fake and removed it, the privacy officials said.

The officials also took issue with the way Ashley Madison retained user data. The website stored all profile information indefinitely unless users paid for a full deletion -- even if the account had been deactivated. None of this was clearly stated in Ashley Madison’s privacy policy.

Under Canadian and Australian privacy laws, no website should be able to keep user information indefinitely when the account has been deactivated, the investigators said.

On Tuesday, Ashley Madison’s owner, Ruby, agreed to make changes recommended by the investigation. They include providing a no-cost option to delete a users profile. Previously, the company charged 19 Canadian dollars (about US$15).

If the company doesn't comply with the recommendations, Canadian and Australian authorities said they can force their countries' courts to intervene. 

Ruby, formerly known as Avid Life Media, is also undergoing a third-party review to examine its privacy protections and plans to introduce other security measures. Despite last year's breach, the company claims Ashley Madison has 47 million users. 

But even as privacy officials in Canada and Australia have concluded their own probe of the company, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is also reportedly investigating the Ashley Madison site.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?