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The data disclosures in 2015 revealed that this "permanent deletion" feature did not permanently delete anything, and all data was recoverable.
Trish Mc Dermott, a consultant who helped found Match.com, accused Ashley Madison of being a "business built on the back of broken hearts, ruined marriages, and damaged families".
Ashley Madison employs guerrilla marketing techniques to advertise its site.
One such technique has been the creation of fake criticism websites filled with ads for Ashley Madison and anonymous testimony that the site is legitimate. Ashley Madison Scams.com" was registered to Ashley Madison owner Avid Life.
She had previously released an analysis purporting to show that only a minuscule proportion (12,000 out of 5.5 million) registered female accounts were used on a regular basis, Newitz noted a clause in the terms of service which states that some accounts are for amusement purposes only.
She says Ashley Madison does not go so far as to say they are fake, but "does admit that many profiles are for 'amusement only' ".
In 2012, a former employee claimed in a lawsuit that she was requested to create thousands of fake female accounts attractive to male customers, resulting in repetitive stress injury. In July 2016, CEO Rob Segal and newly appointed President James Millership told Reuters that the company had phased out bots by late 2015.
It was founded in 2002 by Darren Morgenstern, with the slogan: "Life is short.
Any follow-up messages between the two members are free after the communication has been initiated.
Ashley Madison also has a real-time chat feature where credits buy a certain time allotment.
Also in 2009, NBC refused an ad submitted by Ashley Madison for the network's broadcast of Super Bowl XLIII.
In 2012, the company was sued by former employee Doriana Silva, who stated that in preparation for the launch of the company's Portuguese-language website, she was assigned to create over a thousand bogus member profiles within a three-week period in order to attract paying customers, and that this caused her to develop repetitive stress injury.
On August 24 the Toronto Police Department spoke of "two unconfirmed reports of suicides" associated with the leak of customer profiles along with extortion attempts, offering a $500,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the hackers.