Ashley Madison, the Toronto-based website that caters to people seeking sex outside of their marriages, was dealt with what should have been a crippling blow for any company.
In 2015, it experienced one of the largest data breaches in history, which saw the personal information of 32 million clients released, leading to many reported cases of divorces, resignations, firings and suicides.
But with a rebranded parent company and a new chief technology officer, Ashley Madison is very much still in business — one that both the company and an independent audit report say is growing exponentially.
Could infidelity be the most durable business in the history of commerce?
In an interview with the Star, Ruben Buell, president and chief technology officer of Toronto-based Ruby Life (formerly Avid Life Media), Ashley Madison’s parent company, said the company now has 55 million members.
An external audit by Ernst and Young found there were more than 5.6 million new registrations to the website in 2017. In Canada, membership grew by 17,371 a month. The male-to-female ratio, according to the report, is now 1:1 globally — previously, many of the female users had been fake accounts.
Psychologists say Ashley Madison is tapping into the enduring appeal of infidelity — while the company didn’t invent it, it has created a space for it in the form of, what New York-based sex therapist Sari Cooper called, “the modern version of the baths, the brothel, tavern, or dungeon.”
“People have been having affairs long before Ashley Madison has been around,” said Toronto psychologist Dr. Oren Amitay. The website is merely enabling it by “removing the fear of the other person complicating their life — or at least think its removing the fear,” he added.
“Anything that convinces the population that this is normal contributes to more people doing that behaviour,” said Amitay. “People may use the website as a way to rationalize their decision by believing, for instance, that “infidelity is so common they even have a website for it. If its so common than it might not be such a bad thing.”