In theory, Ashley Madison didn’t allow people to start an account if they said they were under 18.
In practice, nearly 5,000 people around the world successfully created accounts despite entering birth dates that showed they were underage, leaked data shows. More than 200 were in Canada.
The dating service, which specialized in linking up people who want to cheat on a spouse, and promised them discretion, had 32 million members worldwide. In August, hackers published a vast amount of data gathered by the site.
Taking the leaked data at face value, a 15-year-old girl in rural southwestern Saskatchewan, with about a month to go before her 16th birthday, started an Ashley Madison account in early 2013. A male user in Etobicoke, Ont., who said he was barely 16, was active on the site’s chat and e-mail features, also in early 2013.
Globally, the data shows that 22 15-year-olds had Ashley Madison accounts, measured by the length of time between when they said their birth dates were and the date their profile was updated. 681 were 16, and 3,781 were 17.
Four people who at least claimed to be under 15 had accounts: one each in the United States, Australia, Brazil and Chile.
In Canada, 58 girls and 202 boys had activity on an Ashley Madison account on a date less than 18 years after what they said their birth date was. Most were looking for the opposite sex, but eight were males seeking males and nine were females seeking females.
In general, the age of consent in Canada is 16.
It isn’t now possible to set up a profile with a birth date less than 18 years ago:
However, that hasn’t always been a feature of the site – the leaked data shows that in the past people have successfully registered birth dates as that day’s date, or a date centuries in the future.
A Washington-based spokesperson for Avid Life Media, who spoke on condition he not be identified, could not say whether the signup system consistently enforced an age limit in the past.
“The only thing I know is that you have to be 18 years of age to sign up on Ashley Madison. That’s the only thing I have at this point,” he said
He would not say if the company had an explanation of apparent under-18s in the data.
“I don’t, unfortunately, and I think it’s probably safe to say that the company doesn’t either.“