The owners of AshleyMadison.com, a website that enticed customers with the motto "Life is short. Have an affair!", have been fined $1.6m (£1.28m) by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Canadian-based Ruby Corp will pay less than a tenth of the original $17.5m (£14m) sought by plaintiffs for deceiving users with fake profiles and failing to adequately protect their personal information. Ruby Corp is unable to pay the remainder of the fine.
In July 2015 the site suffered a massive data breach in which 36 million users from 46 countries had their personal information stolen and released onto the dark web. The site's homepage boasted the site was "100% secure" and had received a "trusted security award".
"This case represents one of the largest data breaches that the FTC has investigated to date," said FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez. "The global settlement requires AshleyMadison.com to implement a range of more robust data security practices that will better-protect its users' personal information from criminal hackers going forward."
IBTimes UK covered the data breach as it unfolded in 2015, providing information and advice for spouses wishing to access the leaked data in order to check if their partners had been, or were attempting to be, unfaithful.
According to the FTC complaint, until August 2014, operators of the site lured customers, including 19 million Americans, with fake profiles of women. The site's staff would also interact with members under the guise of these fake profiles to convert them into paid members. Only users who pay to access the site can use all of its features, such as sending messages, chatting online in real time, and sending virtual gifts.
"Creating fake profiles and selling services that are not delivered is unacceptable behaviour for any dating website," said Vermont Attorney General William H Sorrell. "I was pleased to see the FTC and the state attorneys general working together in such a productive and cooperative manner. Vermont has a long history of such cooperation, and it's great to see that continuing."
Another misinterpretation made by the website was a feature called "full delete" which, for a fee of $19, purported to entirely remove their data from the network. This was untrue.
Rob Segal, newly appointed CEO of Ruby Corp, said: "Today is a pivotal day for our members and for Ashley Madison. Today's settlement closes an important chapter on the company's past and reinforces our commitment to operating with integrity and to building a new future for our members, our team and our company."
The FTC worked with a coalition of 13 states – Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Vermont – and the District of Columbia to secure a settlement against the following defendants. Each party will receive around £81,000.