Annalee Newitz reports that very few of the female profiles at the hacked site appear to represent real people.
The world of Ashley Madison was a far more dystopian place than anyone had realized. This isn't a debauched wonderland of men cheating on their wives. It isn't even a sadscape of 31 million men competing to attract those 5.5 million women in the database. Instead, it's like a science fictional future where every woman on Earth is dead, and some Dilbert-like engineer has replaced them with badly-designed robots.
Her examination of the dataset (generally described as representing about 37m accounts) is that there were perhaps 12,000
paying women users. Which means, of course, that very few of the paying male users were actually having affairs. Of that total, only 1,492 female-profile users ever checked their messages, compared to 20m men.
One thousand, four-hundred and ninety-two.
Ashley Madison employees did a pretty decent job making their millions of women's accounts look alive. They left the data in these inactive accounts visible to men, showing nicknames, pictures, sexy comments. But when it came to data that was only visible on to company admins, they got sloppy. The women's personal email addresses and IP addresses showed marked signs of fakery. And as for the women's user activity, the fundamental sign of life online? Ashley Madison employees didn't even bother faking that at all.
Here's what Ashley Madison is: a swizz. You pay up to "have an affair", you get strung along for a while, you realize the site is garbage, then you pay the "fee" to have your data deleted. They don't even do that, because why would they? Then everyone gets exposed, because they never had any real interest or competence in keeping user data secure.
Like the classic Nigerian money-laundering scam, it's personally compromising to expose yourself as a victim. So it stayed under the radar—until they got hacked.
At right, Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman. Below is the toilet selfie used by their PR guy, Anthony Macri, when admitting the leaked data dump was real.