“Ashley Madison, a service that claims to facilitate extramarital affairs, has been in repair mode since last summer, when hackers exposed information attached to more that 30 million accounts and badly bruised the trust upon which its business was built.”
The news that there was an app created to facilitate cheating shocked lots of people. Many NYT readers were probably shocked that more than 30 million people had signed up. And lots of spouses were shocked to find their loved ones on the membership roster.
But what stood out to me was the ironic explanation of why Ashley Madison needed to repair their enterprise: Hackers had “badly bruised the trust upon which its business was built.” After all, if you are going to have an extramarital affair, and you are going to use a web app to arrange that affair, wouldn’t you expect — hell, wouldn’t you DEMAND — that your private information about the private things you do with your privates be kept private?
According to the Times, hackers “released nearly 10 gigabytes’ worth of stolen data, including details on member’s names, phone numbers and payment transactions.” It seems the hackers were upset because the company overstated “how many women really used the website.” The hackers also complained “the company charged members a $19 fee to scrub their profiles from the site but then failed to do so.”
But hold your self-righteous snickering for a moment. This security breech is more serious than it might appear. The Times says that the “…Ashley Madison release of user information had devastating consequences for at least some marriages. Blackmailers threatened to tell wives, and the attempted adultery of prominent people ended up in news pages. A New Orleans pastor, who was married with two children, committed suicide after his name was included in the data dump.”
The business was more substantial than you might think, too. More than 45 million members subscribed to Ashley Madison and it earned almost $80 million in revenue.
Regardless of what you think of Ashley Madison’s initial business model and extramarital affairs, you have to give them props for creating a business with authentic truth. That is, some people want to cheat on their spouses and Ashley Madison was a safe and secure way to do just that. But once the company found that the they could not walk their talk and provide a discreet way to have an affair they back-pedaled.
Now the company’s big solution to their problems is to sell itself as the world’s most open-minded dating community. Their new tagline? “Single, attached, looking to explore, or just curious.”
Here’s their their original laser-focused line: “Life is short, have an affair.”
Just as nothing will bring back the lives and marriages damaged by the affairs Ashley Madison facilitated, nothing will bring back the company’s initial success either. Because once the company failed to live up to their authentic truth of discretion, they cheated on themselves and created a new business model that’s answering the question nobody’s asking.