Experts: Deleted Online Information Never Actually Goes Away

The Ashley Madison hack is a big reminder to all Web users: If you submit private data online, chances are it will never fully be deleted.

The hackers, who stole the data about a month ago and then posted it online this week, claimed in a statement that part of the reason for the theft was Ashley Madison's fraudulent promise to fully delete users' information if they paid the company a $19 fee.

The website -- whose slogan is "Life is short. Have an affair" -- is marketed to people looking for extramarital relationships. It purports to have about 39 million members.

The hackers said the company failed to delete the information, even though it collected the fees. Toronto-based Avid Life Media Inc., Ashley Madison's parent company, hasn't commented on the hackers' accusation. A company spokesman didn't respond to multiple emails seeking comment.

It's virtually impossible to exist in modern society without putting at least some personal information online. Many people can't get through a day without using the Internet to shop, pay a bill, or check their credit card balance.

People have become accustomed to trusting their most precious personal information to companies. But they also need to know that all of that information is being shared more than they would expect, privacy experts say.

Before you hit "submit," stop and think before giving up your personal information to any kind of website, said Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, an industry-funded group that educates consumers about cybersecurity.

"Personal information is like money, and you don't just give away your money," Kaiser says. "In the environment we're in right now, you have to value it and think about protecting it everywhere you go on the Internet."

That means taking a look at a website's business to get an idea of how much they...

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