She 'met 50 men, had sex with about 30' on cheating site

"AS Oscar Wilde said, the only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about," says Ashley Madison's vice president of communications, Paul Keable.

Remember Ashley Madison?

The online dating website marketed to married or coupled-up people looking to have an affair suffered a public relations disaster in July 2015, when hackers released the personal details of 35 million members online - almost all its users worldwide.

Marriages ended and friendships dissolved. According to Mr Keable, Ashley Madison's sign-up rate halved.


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The company pulled all ad campaigns bearing its slogan: "Life is short. Have an affair." It's since been changed to "Find your moment".

The service marketed as the discreet way to cheat suddenly lost its trump card - privacy.

A joint investigation by Canada and Australia's Privacy Commissioners found Ashley Madison's parent company Avid Life Media (ALM) "did not have appropriate safeguards in place considering the sensitivity of the personal information ... nor did it take reasonable steps in the circumstances to protect the personal information it held."

ALM, now rebranded as Ruby Corp, were given a deadline, which ends today, to obtain independent third party assurance that it had adopted the report's recommendations and secured its members' data.

Ruby Corp hired Ontario's former Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian to overhaul its privacy and data policies.

"We have received our Privacy by Design certification, which is an important certification," Mr Keable told by phone from Toronto, where Ashley Madison's main office is based.

"We have put privacy of our members' data at the heart of our business and we now look at data as something that is sacred to us," Mr Keable said.

"Our members are trusting us with something that is incredibly important. We were working to address a lot of issues internally and focus on what we needed to do was deliver and overdeliver on their expectations."

Ashley Madison launched its new-and-improved website in the US and Canada earlier this month and is now rolling out the PR offensive in Australia, one of its biggest markets, in an attempt to increase user numbers.

There are 54 million Ashley Madison accounts worldwide, Mr Keable claims, and 12,000 Australians join the site every month. Aussies make 17,000 "unique connections", or matches, a month.

Mr Keable is used to having to defend his job. But one of modern culture's last sexual taboos - cheating - is not a moral issue for him.

"What we offer isn't necessarily infidelity ... it's helping those who have an itch to scratch in private and we do," he said.

"Divorce is a no-fault exercise and now that we have women in the workforce, they have opportunities to seek out affairs as men have been doing for years.

"People change. All of a sudden you're 10 to 15 years into your marriage and you're no longer the person you once were."

Many Ashley Madison users never actually meet up in real life.

"Some people just look and the thrill of having an account is exhilarating enough. We have people who just cyber chat. For them, chatting is enough," Mr Keable said.

"I spoke to a woman a month ago … she met a married man on Ashley Madison. They chatted, both got divorced and they just got married last May.

"Another woman I spoke to said she's met up with 50 men and she's slept with about 30 of them. Love is what it wants to be."

Some users are looking to satisfy sexual desires otherwise ignored in their marriage, but have no intention of pursuing an emotional relationship or getting divorced.

"We are probably the best marriage counselling service in the world," Mr Keable said.

"[The couple] is still emotionally connected. They don't really desire to leave the relationship, but there's something missing. We offer them the discretion to explore how far they want to scratch that itch."

Mr Keable argues that infidelity is inevitable. We all know someone who has cheated or been cheated on, or done it ourselves, so why all the pearl-clutching?

"What we're really doing is just being able to be more honest with people. If you're going to do it, don't do it in the way you've traditionally done, which is in the workplace, our biggest competitor," he said.

"You're risking your job and you don't want to do that. Same with social circles - your neighbour, your sister in law - you're more likely to get caught.

"When anyone challenges me, I say affairshave happened before us and they will continue to happen long after we're gone.

"People have always sought out infidelity. It's human nature. We're just trying to help people have a better affair."

Topics:  ashley madison dating internet relationships

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