FTC Investigating Ashley Madison

Infidelity site Ashley Madison, famously hacked last year, is now being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission.

The new CEO Rob Segal and President James Millership of the site’s parent company Avid Life Media told Reuters about the investigation.

Avid also shared a report by consulting firm Ernst & Young that found Ashley Madison had used computer programs, or fembots, to impersonate women and engage men subscribers.

The company does not know whether the use of fembots is critical to the FTC’s focus or not. Segal told Reuters, “that’s a part of the ongoing process that we’re going through … it’s with the FTC right now.”

Avid quit using the fake fembot profiles in the North America in 2014 and globally in 2015, Millership says in a post Tuesday on the Ashley Madison blog. Some U.S. users exchanged messages with foreign fembots until late in 2015, according to the report.

“My understanding is that bots are widespread in the industry, but they are no longer being used, and will not be used, at Avid Life Media and Ashley Madison,” Millership said.

The FTC, which declined comment on the situation, has taken up the case of fembots in the past. In October 2014, JDI Dating paid $616,165 as part of an FTC settlement for using fake, computer-generated profiles.

Ashley Madison’s new executive leadership is seeking to recover from a costly hack last July that resulted in millions of its users’ information posted online. Then-CEO Noel Biderman resigned in the wake of the anonymous hack.

The incident cost Avid more than a quarter of its revenue and the company faces U.S. and Canadian class action lawsuits tied to the incident. Hired in April, the executives said that the company is putting millions toward better security and improved, more private payment options.

Originally marketed as a website for married people, with the motto of “life is short, have an affair,” Ashley Madison’s web site now bills itself “as more than an affair” site. It boasts 46.6 million members.

“A year ago, Avid Life Media was silenced by a devastating, criminal hack that affected our company and some of our members.

The company is truly sorry for how people’s lives and relationships may have been affected by the criminal theft of personal information,” Segal said in the post. “That’s why we’re charting a new course and making some big changes.”

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