Now that data analysts and number-crunchers have had about two weeks to pore over hacked data from infidelity website Ashley Madison, fascinating but somewhat suspect findings are coming out.
Before we begin, a few caveats are in order.
The user data comes from people who were probably not always telling the truth. That shouldn't be a surprise, since it's a website targeted at people who want to cheat on their spouses.
Data analyst Jishai Evers, the CEO of the data-driven journalism website Dadaviz, says it's not only that "users are lying" but also that "Ashley Madison created fake accounts, or didn't do much to stop others creating fake accounts" that makes the data problematic.
For example the most common birth date users entered was, by far, Jan. 1, which is also the easiest to enter. On the other hand, the city data should be accurate.
Ashley Madison did not verify email addresses.
Avid Life Media, which owns the website, has not actually confirmed it's their data set but many analysts have said they believe it is. And the source data may be incomplete.
CBC News has not verified the data from other sources.
We could go on, but you probably get the idea. So take these numbers with a grain of salt, please.
- Noel Biderman, Ashley Madison CEO, steps down
- AC/DC tweets raise suspicions about Ashley Madison hacker's identity
The data dump
These numbers show what was in Ashley Madison files released by Impact Team:
- 37 million user accounts containing name, street address, phone numbers, birth date, relationship status, what they want, if they drink or smoke, and so on. A little less than half are in the U.S.
- 9.6 million credit card transactions from 2008-2015, which include name, address, email address and amount paid. Women did not need to pay Ashley Madison for most services.
The women of Ashley Madison
CBC News reported earlier on the findings by Gizmodo editor-in-chief Annalee Newitz, published on Aug. 26 and 27. Gizmodo is a technology blog owned by Gawker Media.
Then, on Aug. 31, Avid Life Media, which owns AshleyMadison.com, said, without naming Newitz, that she had "made incorrect assumptions about the meaning of fields contained in the leaked data."
Later that day, Newitz published a new story, conceding that she had misunderstood the evidence and that what's in the data dump isn't the complete data record on members.
She says that data covers "the last time a bot—or 'engager' [or host or angel] in Ashley Madison's internal parlance — emailed or chatted with a member of the site."
The numbers below from Gizmodo incorporate the new information.
- 5.55 million accounts are marked female (about 15 per cent of all profiles). Other sources have slightly different numbers. Dadaviz shows five million female accounts, 14 per cent of the total.
- 70,529 "hosts," or bots, are female, only 43 are male.
- 1,492 messages were sent by bots to women while the bots sent 20.3 million messages to men.
- 2,409 chats between bots and women took place on AshleyMadison.com, compared to 11 million chats between men and bots.
Members had to pay to have their accounts deleted, although it appears from the data dump that the data was retained.
- 12,108 women's accounts are listed as paid-delete, compared to 173,838 men's accounts.
In its statement, Avid Life Media says 87,596 women joined Ashley Madison in the past week and women sent more than 2.8 million messages. If all those messages were sent to men, and likely not all of them were, the chances that a male member received a message from a woman last week was one in 11.
There is evidence that Ashley Madison had active female members, at least in San Fransciso.
The relationship writer Charles Orlando joined the website for research purposes, he says. The fake profile he created had 20 messages by the first night. In 2011 he wrote that within days of joining he had chat sessions with 33 different women (he wonders), three of whom he eventually met.
And Jeremy Adam Smith writes in San Francisco Magazine, after the data dump, about five women he knows in the Bay Area who joined Ashley Madison.
Ashley Madison's own data shows San Francisco with the smallest share of the population as members, out of 22 U.S. cities. Members make up 0.7 per cent of the city's population, while membership in Austin, Texas and Pittsburgh accounts for 5.6 per cent of their population.
David Evans, an online dating industry consultant, says that other websites that are for sex hook-ups, like Adult Friend Finder or Fling.com, also have hardly any real women members.
Location, location, location
Sao Paolo, Brazil, the largest city in the Western hemisphere, tops the list of the world's cities, with 375,000 Ashley Madison accounts, according to Dadaviz.
Next come New York, Sydney, Australia and then Toronto, with 223,000 accounts. Calgary is also in the top 20, at number 17, with 107,000 accounts.
Among the 10 Canadian cities with the most Ashley Madison accounts, London, Ont., leads when measured by share of the city's population, with 10.5 per cent. Toronto has 8.6 per cent, which compares to Sao Paulo at 3.1 per cent.
At 6.3 per cent, Canada tops the list of countries ranked by the share of the population with Ashley Madison accounts. The U.S. has 5.1 per cent and Australia has 4.6 per cent, Dadaviz reports.
Where they work
According to Dadaviz, 66 per cent of the email addresses in the data dump are valid and 34 per cent invalid. Keep that in mind when looking at findings by email domain name.
Dadaviz found these numbers of email addresses attached to Ashley Madison accounts:
- 228 Government of Ontario (gov.on.ca) (About 2/3 are jus.gov.on.ca).
- 170 Department of National Defence (forces.gc.ca).
- 77 City of Toronto (toronto.ca).
- 40 Parliament (parl.gc.ca).
- 10 Senate (sen.parl.gc.ca).
Evers says their location data is quite accurate. Dadaviz did do a lot of work to filter out fake email addresses, especially when looking at government and military addresses and so Evers says those numbers should be quite accurate.
The Canadian Press reports the same number for DND and adds there are, "hundreds more from other departments and agencies, including justice, public works, the Canada Revenue Agency and the RCMP."
CP also found:
- 273,320 email addresses ending with ".ca".
- 62 addresses assigned to Canadian police forces.
- 41 with Ottawa municipal government email addresses.
- 32 with Calgary municipal government email addresses.
CP says over 15,000 Ashley Madison accounts have email addresses linked to U.S. federal, state or local government agencies. U.S. army addresses clock in at 6,788.
CBC News reported earlier on the findings by Gizmodo, published on Aug. 26 and 27. Then, on Aug. 31, Avid Life Media said that Gizmodo had "made incorrect assumptions about the meaning of fields contained in the leaked data." Later that day, Gizmodo published a new story, conceding that it had misunderstood the evidence and revising its findings. The numbers in this story attributed to Gizmodo incorporate the new information.Sep 02, 2015 2:39 PM ET