Bad news for more of the millions of signed-up users to dating/cheating website Ashley Madison, as a second – even bigger leak – of data from the company has hit the web this morning, following what appeared to be the entire cache of users and payment details two days ago.
The site reportedly has over 124 million visits per month stemming from 37 million users across the globe.
Assuming these caches of data is the real thing – and there’s plenty to suggest they are – there is a slither of good news for South African spouses. While many have been bandying around numbers that suggest hundreds of thousands of South Africans have signed up for Ashley Madison, far fewer have actually paid for anything using their credit cards.
Since Ashley Madison has a rather unique business model, where men have to pay to contact women and read their messages, where women can send and read messages for free, we’re going to assume that the credit card cache is a much better indicator of active members.
Of the nine million credit card transactions that are in the dump, only around 70 816 of those transactions were made from South Africa.
At an average of seven transactions per person, only around 10 116 South Africans have actually forked over cash for on-site credits between August 2008 and April 2015.
That number could actually be slightly higher, as those transactions counted were only from South African banks, and don’t include PayPal transactions – which is a bit trickier to nail down.
The total amount spent with the site is staggering, though. If this trove is correct, the payments recorded appear to be in a mix of currencies. Many look like Rand amounts of over R300, while some – especially those paid for by Amex – look more like Canadian Dollars (CAD) or US dollars (USD) (Ashley Madison’s parent company, Avid Life, is based in Canada). The smallest payment is for 8.56, which we presume is dollars. The largest is for 29 000, which we really hope is Zimbabwean dollars or a franchising fee.
At the very least, that means R21m has gone on illicit chats over the last seven years.
The Top 10 areas with the most paying Ashley Madison users (and number of users) are:
- Johannesburg – 13373
- Cape Town – 9674
- Pretoria – 8071
- Durban – 3977
- Sandton – 1755
- Centurion – 1517
- Kempton Park – 1339
- Benoni – 1143
- Alberton – 1066
- Edenvale – 1001
- Randfontein – 991
- Roodepoort – 987
- Port Elizabeth – 950
- Boksburg – 943
- Bloemfontein – 781
- Halfway House – 673
And here’s a guess at what they spent based on the discussion above.
What’s interesting is that the most popular payments aren’t the standard ones at all. The table below shows the amount paid and the number of times that number appears in the payments column for South African customers. Our interpretation would be that special offers were working really well for the company, since all the most popular payments look like discounted amounts. To the best of our knowledge users of Ashley Madison can only buy tokens in bundles of R325, R1 000 and R1 600 – which is CAD$32, CAD$101 and CAD$161 respectively.
There’s more interesting data in the spending we’re still looking at, of course. For example, there seems to be a surprising number of female names on the credit cards – which as women don’t pay to use the site could indicate open marriages, husbands using cards without permission or women pretending to be men.
And while there’s a lot of stories about the number of .gov.za addresses in the membership cache is high – at 615 – public sector workers are actually a faithful bunch. Only four of them went on to pay for access, including someone who appears to be a police officer.
Following a discussion on the htxt.africast today, we’ve gone back to the international payment data and spotted something else which is illuminating. Of the nine million credit card transactions in the leak, by far and away the most popular amounts are for $19 or $19.99 – which is what people pay to have their data removed from the site.
Ashley Madison made a /lot/ more money from people trying to scrub their details than anything else. Which leads us to suspect that the R125 amount in South Africa was probably the local cost for that service before it was made free.