When men signed up for a free account, they would immediately be shown profiles of what internal documents call “Angels,” or fake women whose details and photos had been batch-generated using specially designed software. how’s your cyber skills ;)are you at your computer? What about the names of the users he mentions in his complaint?To bring the fake women to life, the company’s developers also created software bots to animate these Angels, sending email and chat messages on their behalf. After checking the Ashley Madison member database, I can confirm that 4 of these names (Hooky_Pooky, Toaster Strudell, Sun Stars Moon and Burn On The Grill) are still in use as “hosts,” one of the company’s internal names for its bot profiles.To the Ashley Madison “guest,” or non-paying member, it would appear that he was being personally contacted by eager women. So the company apparently didn’t even bother to shut down host accounts that had been named as fraudulent in an official consumer complaint.
The complaint, addressed to the public inquiry unit of the attorney general’s office, came from a man in Southern California who accused the company of fraud for using “fake profiles” to engage him in pay-to-play conversations. Though Ashley Madison told the California attorney general’s office that its own bots were actually the work of random fraudsters, management struggled internally with the legality of what they were doing.
The letter demanded that Ashley Madison respond or face possible legal action. Users complained about bots regularly, and there are several email exchanges between Biderman and various attorneys about how to disclose that they have bot accounts without admitting any wrongdoing.
In his complaint (below), the man describes what he suspected was telltale bot activity. In late 2013, Leslie Weiss, a partner at Chicago firm Barnes & Thornburg, drafted some language about the bots for the company’s terms of service.
The developers at Ashley Madison created their first artificial woman sometime in early 2002.
Her nickname was Sensuous Kitten, and she is listed as the tenth member of Ashley Madison in the company’s leaked user database.
On her profile, she announces: “I’m having trouble with my computer ... ” Sensuous Kitten was the vanguard of a robot army.As I reported last week, Ashley Madison created tens of thousands of fembots to lure men into paying for credits on the “have an affair” site. So our angry California consumer was onto something.Each subsequent message and chat cost the man credits. In it, he explained that “criminal elements” on Ashley Madison are known to create fake profiles on the site, and that members can “report a suspicious profile” or “flag” them.As documents from company e-mails now reveal, 80 percent of first purchases on Ashley Madison were a result of a man trying to contact a bot, or reading a message from one. An analysis of company e-mails, coupled with evidence from Ashley Madison source code, reveals that company executives were in a constant battle to hide the truth. Basically, he argued that any fake profiles on Ashley Madison were from outside scammers.The overwhelming majority of men on Ashley Madison were paying to chat with Angels like Sensuous Kitten, whose minds were made of software and whose promises were nothing more than hastily written outputs from algorithms. In emails to disgruntled members of the site, and even the California attorney general, they shaded the truth about how the bots fit into their business plan. He assured the public inquiry unit that Ashley Madison had refunded the customer and “flagged” the profiles named in the complaint.On January 11, 2012, the office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris sent an official consumer complaint to Ashley Madison’s executives (below). Biderman and other senior management signed off on Dacks’ response. The California Attorney General’s office didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment.