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Ashley Madison, the dating website for married people seeking adulterous liaisons online, is not exactly known as a paragon of ethical behavior. (We’re talking about a website that most recently made headlines for asking a former secretary of state to serve as its spokesperson.)

At a conference last weekend, Eric Anderson, a professor at England’s University of Winchester and “chief science officer” at Ashley Madison, revealed that the website had been monitoring the conversations of its users—without their prior knowledge or consent.

According to Anderson, the website secretly snooped on 4,000 conversations that 100 women on the site were having over the course of a month, allegedly as part of a study on women’s motivations to commit infidelity. (The men on the other side of the dialogue also weren’t informed of the study.)

Given that Anderson was conducting his research on behalf of a website whose financial model is based on infidelity, it probably won’t shock you to learn the results of the study: “That our model of having sex and love with just one other person for life has failed—and it has failed massively,” Anderson told the American Sociological Association at a conference last weekend.

Of course, Anderson’s findings are not nearly as striking as the revelation that Ashley Madison has been reading the private conversations of its users. It's a particularly egregious breach of trust considering how much of a premium Ashley Madison puts on user privacy. CEO Noel Biderman told the Daily Dot that the company erases its users "digital lipstick," and the tagline for the website is “The world’s leading married dating service for discreet encounters."

Ashley Madison isn't the only dating site to be experimenting on its users. Late last month it was revealed that OkCupid matched users with people they weren't necessarily compatible with. 

H/T Time | photo by andrewrennie/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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