Ashley Madison built a dating empire around the idea of helping married people find extramarital affairs. But customers who had second thoughts had an out: a $20 service that promised to erase their data.
That service, called the "full delete," turned into a relatively lucrative money-maker for Ashley Madison, according to company documents obtained by BuzzFeed News. In 2014 alone, Ashley Madison added $1.7 million in revenue to its coffers by selling the function to about 90,000 squeamish spouses.
The full delete service, however, may not have delivered all that it advertised. Hackers posted a database of Ashley Madison accounts on Wednesday, and while people who had paid up for the service had their real name, username, email and profile information removed, it appears that other data remained, including date of birth, gender, weight and height and ZIP code, according to the Guardian.
That information could potentially provide enough data for a user to be identified. Avid Media, the owner of Ashley Madison, didn't immediately return a CBS MoneyWatch request for comment.
The full delete service was the thorn that prompted the hackers into action, according to Krebs on Security. The hackers, who call themselves the "Impact Team," had complained in July about the service, saying the feature promises the "removal of site usage history and personally identifiable information," but it is "a complete lie."
The hackers this week exposed about 32 million names, emails and physical addresses of people who had signed up for Ashley Madison. The hackers released another trove of data today, which was double the size of the previous one, according to Motherboard. The latest files appear to be internal data from the company, the report noted.
The FBI and police in Canada are investigating the hack. On Tuesday, Avid Life said in a statement: "This event is not an act of hacktivism, it is an act of criminality."
The released information appears to include seven years of credit card and payment transactions, although Avid Life said no full credit card numbers were stolen. The data also includes some information from customers on what they were looking for, such as "I like to ravish and be ravished," according to Wired.