Ashley Madison hack unlikely to dissuade cheating spouses, says researcher

Tens of thousands of people living in the Edmonton area and hoping to cheat on their spouses are likely feeling a little uneasy after hackers breached the cheating website Ashley Madison.

'Fear of being outed through this website is not going to deter that behaviour'

Ashley Madison is an online dating service for married people seeking affairs. (Eric Foss/CBC)

Tens of thousands of people living in the Edmonton area and hoping to cheat on their spouses are likely feeling a little uneasy after hackers breached the infidelity website Ashley Madison. But that doesn't mean they are going to stop looking.

"There's probably a lot of very scared people right now," said Matthew Johnson, a relationship researcher in the human ecology department at the University of Alberta.

"My guess is a lot of couples have had a very uncomfortable conversation."

The company claims 141,000 people in the Edmonton area have accounts on the site, giving the city the third most members in Canada after Ottawa and Calgary.

Last week hackers stole confidential customer information, posted some of it online and threatened to publish all of it unless the Canadian-owned company is shut down.

The website's Canadian parent, Avid Life Media, said it quickly secured the site and was working with police to find the hackers.

Johnson told Edmonton AM host Tim Adams the possibility that hackers are able to expose private information should be a wake-up call.

"Something they think is secret and private may very well not be."

Johnson said it's not surprising such sites are so successful. He said people who engage in infidelity do so for two key reasons: generally, their relationship is not going well and they feel they have a good opportunity to cheat with someone else. 

Johnson said the threatened leak doesn't change either of those things.

"Ashley Madison has capitalized on this second reason by providing opportunities at an unprecedented rate," he said. 

"The fear of being outed through this website is not going to deter that behaviour."

Johnson said it's believed between 10 and 25 per cent of relationships experience infidelity. Most couples manage to stay together following disclosure of an affair, he added..

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