by Shawna Scott March 15, 2017

At the start of last year one of our brands, We-Vibe, released a couple of vibrators as part of their collection of app-controlled toys. The Rave and the Nova were two of the best vibrators I’ve seen in some time. The Rave had a fabulous asymmetrical shape that meant you could always find a good angle to hold it at; the Nova, their version of a rabbit-style vibrator, took into account that everyone’s body is different and made the clitoral portion of the vibe long and flexible. You could really hear women’s voices coming through in the design. I was impressed.

We-vibe nova

(We-Vibe Nova)

However there was one element that I wasn’t entirely keen on - the app. I’ve never been a huge fan of remote control and app-controlled toys. I completely understand the benefit of using it with someone if you’re in a long-distance relationship, but for me vibrator apps feel much more like a gimmick than something people would use on a regular basis. I’ve written about this before when the “Lovely” cock ring was launched. Though the We-Vibe app isn’t nearly as obnoxious, it still wasn’t necessary to make these great toys. They were already great without it.

Fast forward to last August when 2 hackers from New Zealand gave a talk at DefCon about how We-Vibe’s “We-Control” app and others like it, are notoriously insecure. Not only that, but We-Vibe’s parent company, Standard Innovation, had been using the app to collect marketing information like amount of time used, vibration intensity, and creepiest of all - vibrator temparature. Although the company’s president Frank Ferrari has said “Our reason for collecting CPU temperature data is purely for hardware diagnostic purposes …” it still never sat well with me. Maybe it’s the fact that all this information was effectively buried deep into their privacy policy where no one would read it. In any case, I made the decision to pull my 2 favourite vibrators of 2016 from Sex Siopa’s virtual shelves till We-Vibe created better software or ditched the app altogether.

 

Apparently I wasn’t the only person who felt this way, because yesterday it was announced that Standard Innovations have been ordered by a judge to payout $4 million to customers who bought and used their vibrators with the app as part of their settlement in a class action lawsuit.

It is my hope that We-Vibe learn from this. They are an exceptional brand who have made some great toys. However while I’m hopeful that they’ll take better care in future when developing their apps and work towards better transparency with their privacy policy, I find myself left with more questions about the wider world of smart technology. How much privacy are we willing to give up in exchange for convenience? Do we really need a fridge knows when you’re low on milk and orders more for you? Or a toilet that tests your waste and contacts your doctor if it detects a problem? I often wonder how much more targeted advertising can I possibly be subjected to, before I go certifiably insane.

Clearly there has been a line drawn - people do not want their sex lives snooped on by a company’s marketing department, but what about all the other intimate aspects of our lives that we take for granted? I think it’s fantastic that the class action lawsuit against We-Vibe was successful, but would it have been if it were filed against the likes of Apple, Google, or Facebook? Surely they have much more information about the intimate details of our personal and financial lives and a far more impenetrable privacy policy.

The hackers who first revealed the issues with We-Vibe’s app, “goldfisk” and “follower”, created their own initiative - the Private Play Accord - in order to get sex toy manufacturers to commit to more transparent privacy policies. I think it may be time to start expected this of all companies with smart products.



Shawna Scott
Shawna Scott

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