Vibrator maker ordered to pay out C$4m for tracking users’ sexual activity

The We-Vibe is marketed as a way to ‘allow couples to keep their flame ignited – together or apart’. Photograph: Emily Berl for the Guardian

Following a class-action lawsuit in an Illinois federal court, We-Vibe’s parent company Standard Innovation has been ordered to pay a total of C$4m to owners, with those who used the vibrators associated app entitled to the full amount each. Those who simply bought the vibrator can claim up to $199.

The We-Vibe 4 Plus is a £90 bluetooth connected vibrator, which can be controlled through an app. It is marketed as a way to “allow couples to keep their flame ignited – together or apart”. Its app-enabled controls can be activated remotely, allowing, for instance, a partner on the other end of a video call to interact.

But the app came with a number of security and privacy vulnerabilities, which added up to produce something that many would feel uncomfortable about using.

The app that controls the vibrator is barely secured, allowing anyone within bluetooth range to seize control of the device.

In addition, data is collected and sent back to Standard Innovation, letting the company know about the temperature of the device and the vibration intensity – which, combined, reveal intimate information about the user’s sexual habits.

The flaws with the We-Vibe sex toy were first revealed at the Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas in 2016 by New Zealand-based hackers “goldfisk” and “follower”. Speaking there, the pair argued that the problem was a “serious issue”: “unwanted activation of a vibrator is potentially sexual assault”, follower said.

In practice, given the C$4m total settlement and the requirement to pay various legal fees first, most We-Vibe owners are likely to receive somewhat less than the full $10,000 they are entitled to.

Source: Article on The Guardian newspaper web site.

 

 

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