Durban - A total of R21 million – that’s the amount of money South African men have forked out to use “cheaters” dating website Ashley Madison over the past seven years.
Thanks to a data hack last week, the names of government officials, policemen and private citizens made it on to a list of known users of the site.
Apparently the highest number of philanderers in South Africa were revealed to be from Joburg, with more than 15 000 users. Cape Town came in second, with about 12 500, followed by about 10 000 in Pretoria and 6 300 in Durban.
A group called Impact Team carried out the hack and dumped 9GB of data onto a system called the Dark Web which is only accessible using a special browser.
Soon after, the information was all over the web.
There have also been revelations that women are contacting the popular South African sex therapist Marlene Wasserman, known as Dr Eve, hoping to save their marriages.
The hacking of the website and the release of highly confidential data on the internet is the biggest sex scandal in years – and appears set to ruin the company.
Technology blog htxt.africa mined some of the data after the hack by using the credit-card details of its users to establish how much money was spent by them.
This week, people were able to check whether their partners were registered on the site by entering their e-mail addresses.
Ashley Madison is a Canada-based social networking service providing online dating to people who are married or in committed relationships.
The site’s tag line reads: “Life is short, have an affair.”
It reportedly has more than 124 million hits a month. Apparently there was more interesting data being examined, according to the editor-in-chief of the htxt.africa blog, Adam Oxford.
“There seems to be a surprising number of female names on the credit cards and, since women don’t pay to use the site, this could indicate open marriages, husbands using credit cards without permission or women pretending to be men,” Oxford said.
In the UK, it was reported some women had started divorce proceedings after learning that their husbands were registered on the site. Wasserman said the data leak was a huge talking point within her forums.
“Desperate females who are in a terrible state have come forward after they discovered that their spouses were registered on the site. Some of them don’t know how to approach the situation.
“It has become a painful situation for many. Some spouses who have not yet been caught out want to know if they should disclose this information to their wives before they find out by themselves,” said Wasserman.
She has not heard of any couples who were immediately considering getting a divorce.
“Some couples who get caught try to justify their actions by saying that they didn’t really mean to do it. It was just a cyber relationship and no sex was involved. So, this brings about the question: “How is infidelity classified?”
Wasserman said that just because one was registered on Ashley Madison.com it did not mean they were cheating.
“Some say that it’s just flirting, which they don’t consider cheating. One doesn’t need to use Ashley Madison to flirt with someone.
“This can be done on any social media platform and it’s happening. People flirt with each other on Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking site.”
Wasserman said it was not just curious wives checking up on their spouses. “Many children had also been entering their parents’ e-mail addresses to check if their mom or dad had been registered. But then they don’t know how to handle the situation, so they seek help from friends and relatives.”
Users who registered on the site using their work e-mail addresses could be in hot water.
Attorney Rajen Hiralall said an employee could lose their job if they used their work e-mail addresses.
A number of websites have been set up on which worried partners can check their e-mail addresses.
Two of the the websites are http:// www.trustify.info/check and https://ashley.cynic.al/