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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
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

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?