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    Intimacy Issues: Sex Toy Manufacturer Fined $4Mln for Collecting Explicit Data

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    Standard Innovation Corporation, the firm behind popular bluetooth-enabled sex toy We-Vibe 4 Plus, has settled a US class action lawsuit with a US$4 million payout, after the company was found to have collected data about the way users partook in the device.

    The suit was brought in federal court by two anonymous women last year. The product, which the firm dubs the "Number 1 Couples Vibrator," allows users to adjust intensity and vibration patterns using a smartphone, and can be controlled long-distance, allowing raunchy couples to "play together even when apart."

    Distance is no object — even a couple on opposite sides of the globe can have a lascivious time. We-Vibe devices retail for between US$130 and US$227.

    Despite the device's apparent standing with lustful twosomes, in September 2016, it was revealed confidential data was being collected by the sex toy while in use, and sent back to Standard Innovation. Seized info included pattern and intensity levels of vibrations, device temperature, time and length of use, and customer email addresses.

    The suit alleged Standard Innovation was "intercepting and monitoring electronic communications between a user's smartphone and the device, then collecting and transmitting this data to servers" at the firm's Canada headquarters.

    Eve-Lynn Rapp, attorney at Edelson law firm that filed the suit, told Sputnik in September 2016 that the company did not disclose that this kind of personal information would be monitored or collected, so users actually had no idea what they were effectively sharing.

    "When Windows or Apple want to track your diagnostic information about how you read your word document, they actually ask you. There is nothing like that over here in this lawsuit. The device was actually tracking IP addresses. So if you were using a smartphone or if you are logged into your wireless network at your home, there is an IP address that can identify you," Rapp said.

    A spokesperson for Standard Innovation said the information was stored to improve products and "for diagnostic purposes," and only used in aggregate, non-identifiable forms.

    Court documents state the settlement agreement achieves the dual purpose of the suit by providing both "significant monetary compensation" and cessation of the firm's "allegedly invasive" information collection practices. As part of the settlement, Standard Innovation was required to establish two settlement classes: an "app class" for app users, and a "purchaser class" for those who only purchased and used the device. 

    According to court documents, around 300,000 people purchased Bluetooth-enabled We-Vibe products, with a third of those also using the app. The settlement entitles any purchaser to claim up to US$150, while app users can receive up to US$7,434, although it is expected that purchasers of the device will only receive around US$30, while app users will receive a mere US$380.

    Standard Innovation's spokesperson said the firm took customer privacy and data security seriously, and had responded "rapidly" to privacy and security concerns around the app.

    "We enhanced our privacy notice, increased app security, provided customers more choice in the data they share, and we continue to work with leading privacy and security experts to improve the app."

    Standard Innovation has also agreed to destroy all offending data it collected.

    Privacy concerns about the device were first raised in August 2015, during the DefCon hacker conference in Las Vegas, when a presenter hacked a We-Vibe vibrator. While the device was only hackable from a very short distance, as a computer needed to be within Bluetooth range to control it, the prospect still alarmed users.

    Related:

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    Tags:
    Internet of Things (IoT), sex toys, smartphone, data, personal information, communication, snooping, technology
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