The man who founded AshleyMadison.com, the marital cheating site at the center of a massive privacy breach, has stepped down as chief executive of the company that owns it.
Noel Biderman has agreed to vacate the helm of Avid Life Media Inc. (ALM) "and is no longer with the company," according to a statement released Friday by ALM.
"This change is in the best interest of the company and allows us to continue to provide support to our members and dedicated employees. We are steadfast in our commitment to our customer base," ALM said. The company is "actively adjusting to the attack on our business and members' privacy by criminals," it added, and the website is still operational.
The company and its roughly 39 million users have been reeling ever since hackers calling themselves the Impact Team dumped reams of personal data, including partial credit card numbers, email addresses, and sexual preferences, onto the worldwide web. The hackers said that they targeted Ashley Madison for its questionable privacy and business practices, in particular a claim by the company that users could delete their information for a $19 fee.
Toronto police leading an international team to hunt the culprits, and announced two unconfirmed reports of suicides related to the privacy leak on Monday. While appealing to other hackers for help in the case, authorities have warned that extortionists and scam artists are looking to exploit the controversy.
Similar to Sony following its hack, ALM has been using American copyright law to try to get platforms like Twitter and Reddit to stop disseminating the embarrassing and potentially damaging information of its customers.
Mitch Stoltz, a senior lawyer of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote that the company's attempts to use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act "to put the genie back in the bottle are misguided, and in some cases, may violate the DMCA itself." For one thing, ALM probably doesn't have the copyright on much of the material in question.
"Biographical descriptions or pickup lines written by users can be copyrightable, but the copyright belongs to the users, not the site owners," he wrote.
Biderman has been the unabashed face of the Toronto-based Ashley Madison website for years, speaking openly about the realities of infidelity and defending a business model that capitalizes on its slogan: "Life is short. Have an affair."
He has also been personally affected by the leak: the married father of two always said he never cheated on his wife, but this week BuzzFeed detailed emails that suggested he might have had multiple affairs.
"Infidelity is part of the landscape," Biderman told the New York Daily News last year while promoting his book Adultropology. "If we removed every unfaithful man from public office, from CEO positions, from the basketball courts, we'd have a very dull society. You wouldn't be able to fill a football team, run a government or have a corporation that can function…. So let's stop trying to paint these people as villains."