Smart Vibrator Company Settles Lawsuit For Over-Collection Of, Uh, Personal Data

from the teledildonics dept

The internet of really broken things is raising no limit of privacy questions. As in, companies are hoovering up personal data on smart-device usage, often transmitting it (unencrypted) to the cloud, then failing to really inform or empower consumers as to how that data is being used and shared. Though this problem applies to nearly all IoT devices, it tends to most frequently come up when talking about the rise of smart toys that hoover up your kids' ramblings, then sell that collected data to all manner of third parties. A company named Genesis toys is facing a new lawsuit for just this reason.

Since your toys, fridge, tea kettle and car are all collecting your data while laughing at your privacy and security concerns, it only makes sense that your sex toys are doing the same thing.

Back in September, a company by the name of Standard Innovation was sued because its We-Vibe vibrator collected sensitive data about usage. More specifically, the device and its corresponding smartphone app collect data on how often and how long users enjoyed the toy, the "selected vibration settings," the device's battery life, and even the vibrator's "temperature." All of this data was collected and sent off to the company's Canadian servers. Unlike many IoT products, Standard Innovation does encrypt this data in transit, but like most IoT companies it failed to fully and clearly disclose the scope of data collection.

One of the product's users sued the company (pdf), claiming the data collection violates Illinois consumer fraud laws and the federal Wiretap Act by not fully detailing data collection. That forced the company to issue a statement saying it was taking a closer look at ensuring that user data remained secure:
"Over the course of the last few weeks, we have taken steps to further enhance the data security and privacy measures for our product offering. As part of this effort, we have engaged external security and privacy experts to conduct a thorough review of our data practices with a view of further strengthening data protection and privacy for our customers. We are also committed to better communicating our data practices. We are updating the We-Connect app later this month, and the update will include new in-app communication regarding our privacy and data practices and a new feature for consumers to control how their data may be used."
Again, Standard Innovation appears to have done more than most Internet of Things companies (not that this would be hard) by actually encrypting the data. That said, there's still a certain amount of tone-deafness in collecting this much private sexual data for "research" without thinking it might come back to bite your brand on the posterior. And we're increasingly seeing that these privacy policies aren't clear, change frequently without warning, and don't give consumers enough control over their personal data.

Regardless, the company decided to settle the lawsuit this week anyway, with court documents (pdf) indicating the proposed class action is no more. At the end of the day, it's just another example of how quite often the smart, secure choice is older, dumber, disconnected tech. Even when we're talking about purple vibrators.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Dec 2016 @ 6:54am

    That said, there's still a certain amount of tone-deafness in collecting this much private sexual data for "research" without thinking it might come back to bite your brand on the posterior.

    So the company is kinky. Those are love bites, honest!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    zerosaves (profile), 23 Dec 2016 @ 6:54am

    Not the worst thing ever.

    While they should have had this an Opt-In, the data gathered IMO is very useful, and not for marketing or selling to marketers. If they find their users are using these for hours a day, getting excessively hot, or battery issues, they can incorporate this into their next model to reflect real world usage to make it safer or more enjoyable.

    Still should have been spelled out and Opt-In only. All data gather should be Opt-In

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Vidiot (profile), 23 Dec 2016 @ 7:29am

      Re: Not the worst thing ever.

      I'm pretty sure it also collects data on precisely how far in you opt...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Wyrm (profile), 23 Dec 2016 @ 9:49am

      Re: Not the worst thing ever.

      The funny part with lots of such IOT items is that there is an obvious "opt-in", namely wifi settings. The only problem being that, in most cases, you don't cheeky know what you "opt-in" for when setting up wifi.
      You are asked wifi network name and password, probably telling the one funny feature or service you'll get out of bringing your item online, but you're rarely told the whole details: poor security and data collection are rarely advertised.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      OGquaker, 24 Dec 2016 @ 1:15am

      Re: Not the worst thing ever.

      Rats; beetme toit.
      I started building this product back in 1976.
      Of course, data would only be recovered during product returns or NiCad replacement.
      I figured a real high-end clientele and a latched recharger-security presentation case, tucked in at expensive 'antique boutiques'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 23 Dec 2016 @ 7:06am

    Metadata isn't a privacy violation, right

    This is a pretty good example of when metadata is the key information.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    OldGeezer (profile), 23 Dec 2016 @ 10:19am

    Jack off metadata??

    Just exactly why would anyone be interested in buying my whack off schedule? Sure the clerk at the check out counter figures out you aren't buying that vibrator for the scalp massage adapter but who really really cares beyond that? I guess maybe porn sites but the competition is really stiff (pun intended)in that arena.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chuck, 23 Dec 2016 @ 10:41am

    Funny Comment of the Week

    I have nothing to add to the article itself, but I just wanted to say this:

    If one of the comments on THIS article doesn't win Funny Comment of the Week, then I am SERIOUSLY disappointed in the entire internet. This isn't comedy gold, it's comedy platinum.

    STEP UP YOUR GAME INTERNETS!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    BJC (profile), 23 Dec 2016 @ 12:28pm

    What are the terms?

    Would really love to know whether the company is going to change its practices in the future under this settlement or if the plaintiff and her lawyers are just getting paid to go away.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 23 Dec 2016 @ 12:34pm

    Unlike many IoT products, Standard Innovation does encrypt this data in transit

    Encrypt it AND send the data via Tor.

    Then wait for a paper to come out of the University of Cambridge using traffic-analysis to determine enjoyment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Dec 2016 @ 6:49pm

    Are they also using cameras to determine which orifice is being used with which animal?

    If they need this info for research, it would be foolish to assume one animal with one orifice. Although they could be a bunch of assholes who are projecting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Eldakka (profile), 23 Dec 2016 @ 8:47pm

    It's good to see that with enough moaning from customers they can get the relief they are after when they hit the right spot with the vendor.

    Hopefully the climax of this situation was mutually satisfactory to all involved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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