Dubious Distinction: Agencies With Employees on "Discreet Encounters" Website

By on August 24, 2015 in Current Events with 72 Comments

Have you signed up with the Ashley Madison website? This website advertises it is “the world’s leading married dating service for discreet encounters.” (Emphasis in the original.) “Ashley Madison is the most famous name in infidelity and married dating,” the site asserts on its homepage. “Have an Affair today on Ashley Madison. Thousands of cheating wives and cheating husbands signup everyday looking for an affair…. With Our affair guarantee package we guarantee you will find the perfect affair partner.”

That promise of discretion did not work out so well as much of the personal data is now publicly available.

What has happened after the subscribers to the website were exposed after the site was hacked has been a potential nightmare for those users whose secret lives have been exposed and posted in various locations.

Surprisingly, some federal employees apparently signed up for the site using their government email addresses. At best, that would seem to be ill-advised for improper use of government computer systems but it does make it easy to narrow down the list of 37 million or so to a more manageable number. There are approximately 600 federal government email addresses used to sign up on Ashley Madison using federal government civilian email addresses.

Approximately 15,000 email addresses used various state, local, federal or military government website addresses to sign up for the site. Of course, some of the email addresses used are not valid, but there has already been some fallout for people in government or the public eye and who signed up for the site and were not expecting their name to be exposed in such a sensitive topic.

In looking through the data, federal employees in a number of agencies were subscribers. However, as noted by one expert who reviewed the data: “If your email address is in the Ashley Madison database it means nothing. The owner of that email address may never have even visited the Ashley Madison site.” That is because Ashley Madison didn’t verify email addresses given to it, allowing anyone to enter any email address.

The vast majority of the emails that were using government email addresses were military addresses such as .mil. It would appear that the U.S. Army is the big winner in this with approximately 6,700 addresses ending in “us.army.mil”. Unverified totals cited by various media outlets, include another 1,665 ending in “navy.mil,” 809 ending in “usmc.mil” and 206 in “mail.mil.”

As far as non-military federal agencies, here are a few of the numbers. Because of the variations of email addresses used in agencies for subdivisions or other portions of an agency, these numbers are approximate. This is obviously not a large number from the two million or so current federal employees but, for those who signed up, it could prove embarrassing before the dust on this issue dies down. This list may not be inclusive or completely accurate due to so many variations of government email addresses that are used for legitimate purposes. Here are the agencies we were able to pinpoint that had employees who signed up for the Ashley Madison website:

Agency Total Employees
Veterans Affairs 90
Bureau of Prisons 88
General Services Administration 69
Social Security Administration 45
Dept. of Homeland Security 44
White House 40
NASA 37
State 30
Centers for Disease Control 20
Federal Aviation Administration 17
Tennessee Valley Authority 17
Labor 14
Housing and Urban Development 12
Federal Bureau of Investigation 12
National Park Service 9
Environmental Protection 7
Internal Revenue Service6 6
Transportation 6
Food and Drug Administration 6
Small Business Administration 6
Education 5
National Institutes of Science and Tech 4
Peace Corps 3
Library of Congress 3
Dept. of Energy 3
Securities and Exchange Commission 3
Federal Deposit Insurance Corp 2
National Labor Relations Board 1
Federal Election Commission 1
Federal Emergency Management 1
Total 601

© 2016 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources.

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