Internet-connected vibrator maker settles data privacy lawsuit

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A sex toy company has agreed to pay its customers up to $10,000 each in compensation after it was revealed that its Internet-connected vibrators were collecting highly sensitive information without their consent.

If you’re not up to scratch with the latest in these particular Internet of Things devices, We-Vibe launched the vibrator in 2014 (marginally NSFW) that “allows couples to keep their flame ignited – together or apart” by being able to control the device remotely through an app, for example, while they are making a video call.

While that sounds all good and cozy, depending on what you’re into, the problem with the device is that like many others in the wonderful world of Internet-connected devices, it was vulnerable to hacking. Security researchers revealed at DEFCON in August just how easy it was. They did note, however, that hijacking the Bluetooth connection from the vibrator was somewhat difficult as it “turns out the human body is a surprisingly efficient faraday cage,” an enclosure that blocks electromagnetic fields.

That wasn’t the extent of the issues revealed, though, and it’s here that the company ran into legal trouble. The hacking of the Bluetooth connection also revealed that the company was sending private data back to its servers from the vibrator itself.

Queue the lawyers, in this case a class action lawsuit filed in the North District of Illinois Eastern Division District Court. The suit alleged that the We-Connect app was transmitting information, including dates and times of use as well as vibration mode and pattern, to the company’s servers, along with personally-identifiable email addresses — all without notifying customers.

Ottawa-based Standard Innovation, the company behind the We-Vibe brand, denied any wrongdoing. But rather than pursue the case in court, complete with the potential of high legal costs, the company instead agreed to settle the case for $2.97 million U.S., with a legal agreement to destroy all information it had collected from the app and connected vibrators.

Consumers who purchased the We-Vibe internet connected vibrator before Sept. 26 are entitled to a refund of up to $199 each. Those who used the We-Connect application are entitled to up to $10,000 each, though the actual amounts paid out to individuals are likely to be significantly lower.

Photo: thespeedoflife/Flickr