We Spoke to the Attorney Handling That We-Vibe Vibrator Lawsuit

Four surprising things you need to know about the proposed class-action lawsuit against a Canadian smart-vibrator manufacturer

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We-Vibe Vibrator Lawsuit

We want a smart sex toy that scratches an itch without being a snitch

This week in super unsatisfying news: a Chicago woman (identified as N.P.) filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against an Ottawa-based manufacturer of smart sex toys for allegedly collecting lots of pretty private information without clueing in customers. The suit alleges that Standard Innovation (US) Corp.—creators of the smartphone-connected, Bluetooth-enabled We-Vibe vibrator and its We-Connect app—collected and stored on its servers the email addresses of its customers, plus toe-curlingly cringeworthy personal deets like how long and how often the device was in play and the level of intensity and temperature setting (?!) with which it was used.

The extent of this alleged invasion of privacy is astounding (a major big-O no)—but beyond that could pose some v. v. scary and totes unnecessary hacking risks to couples who just want to get down remotely.

Here’s four things you need to know about what’s going on:

1. Two security researchers from New Zealand discovered the makers of We-Vibe were collecting highly sensitive information and revealed it during a presentation at a DEF CON Hacking Conference in Las Vegas in early August.

The researchers—referred to only by their handles @rancidbacon and @g0ldfisk—demonstrated to a room full of first-time and more experienced hackers how they reverse-engineered We-Vibe 4 Plus’s code and the information it transmitted during a presentation cheekily called “Breaking the Internet of Vibrating Things.”

RancidBacon and G0ldfisk also introduced the crowd to the word “teledildonics,” and asked everyone to “keep the good vibes” as they released a “Weevil” suite of tools that let audience members simulate and control We-Vibe compatible vibrators. If that wasn’t enough of a buzzkill, they posed this frightening question: “How do you really know who is making you squirm with pleasure?”

2. Most companies don’t want to make it all that obvi that they’re collecting your personal information.

FLARE reached out to Eve-Lynn Rapp, the San Francisco-based attorney handling the lawsuit against Standard Innovation, and asked if she could speculate why companies might collect highly sensitive data and not make it explicit to their consumers.

“It is a universal practice across most industries that the less the customer knows the better,” says Rapp. “A well informed customer is a more selective customer.”

Apparently it’s the kind of thing that happens way more often than you think: companies may not be as forthcoming with the info they’re collecting off you because it’s bad for their bottom line. They don’t want to discourage potential users from buying their product.

3. Unsurprisingly, people aren’t too satisfied now that they know an app has been spying on their sex lives.

Rapp told us that more people have reached out to the firm where she works since this story broke.

“We have been contacted by numerous consumers in the U.S. and abroad who are shocked and appalled that their personal conduct is being captured in such specific way,” she says. “It is certainly one of the strongest reactions we have ever seen to a privacy violation.”

4. The lawsuit could really change the way we think about privacy.

Within the first five frantic days of Pokémon GO’s release, savvy users realized that just by logging in to the app, they were handing over full access to their Google account to its developer Niantic Labs. The fallout forced Niantic to create a quick fix and require permission from users to access who they are on Google and their email address. But that was a game that involved catching fictional creators.

Sex changes everything. This lawsuit may help consumers like you and me realize that not only do we have a right to privacy—we have a right to know if it’s going to be violated.

“We expect this case will put consumers on notice of the dangers lurking in any connected device,” says Rapp. “This matter, like all of our privacy cases, seeks to highlight the importance of each individual’s right to privacy, especially the privacy they expect behind closed doors.”

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