Gov’t Agencies Win Award for Ashley Madison Investigation

Three consumer-protection agencies in three countries shared a prestigious international award for their cooperative investigation of the Ashley Madison security breach.HONG KONG – Not everything about the 2015 Ashley Madison data breach turned out bad. Three consumer-protection agencies in three countries shared a prestigious international award for their cooperative investigation of the debacle.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner received the Grand Award for Innovation from the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC). The association represents 119 data-protection entities worldwide.

In presenting the award to the three agencies, ICDPPC Chairman John Edwards called the agencies’ work “a model on how to achieve cross-border cooperation in privacy enforcement.”

The trio of agencies also received the ICDPPC’s Dispute Resolution, Compliance and Enforcement award.

A hacker collective calling itself Impact Team broke into’s data server in July 2015. After its demand the infidelity dating site permanently close was ignored, Impact Team dumped gigabytes of data including names, addresses, credit card numbers and sexual fetishes onto the dark web. Celebrities including by-then-disgraced Christian icon Josh Duggar as well as U.S. and U.K. government officials and executives at European and American corporations were outed as cheaters on their spouses and significant others. Divorces, job losses and community shunning ensued.

The data breach exposed the personal information of an estimated 37 million users in nearly 50 countries. Class-action lawsuits followed in Canada and the U.S.

Slightly more than one year after the breach, the Canadian and Australian data-protection agencies released a scathing report calling security measures and risk-management protocols at the site woefully inadequate. The report also condemned deceptive and confusing marketing practices designed to make members believe their personal information was safe.

A concurrent U.S. FTC investigation, prosecuted with the assistance of the Canadian and Australian agencies, led to U.S. federal charges against the website’s operators and a $1.6 million settlement. The Canadian and Australian governments also entered settlement agreements with the company.


Marty O'Brien

Raised in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, Marty O'Brien was the first of the O'Brien clan to obtain a college degree. A former sports journalist, O'Brien got a peek at the inner workings of the adult entertainment industry while on an assignment to cover the Los Angeles Lakers. He joined the YNOT editorial team in late 2010 and now specializes in technology , business news and ogling starlets.

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