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Vibrator Maker To Pay Millions Over Claims It Secretly Tracked Use (npr.org) 113

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: The makers of the We-Vibe, a line of vibrators that can be paired with an app for remote-controlled use, have reached a $3.75 million class action settlement with users following allegations that the company was collecting data on when and how the sex toy was used. The We-Vibe product line includes a number of Bluetooth-enabled vibrators that, when linked to the "We-Connect" app, can be controlled from a smartphone. It allows a user to vary rhythms, patterns and settings -- or give a partner, in the room or anywhere in the world, control of the device. Since the app was released in 2014, some observers have raised concerns that Internet-connected sex toys could be vulnerable to hacking. But the lawsuit doesn't involve any outside meddling -- instead, it centers on concerns that the company itself was tracking users' sex lives. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Illinois in September. It alleges that -- without customers' knowledge -- the app was designed to collect information about how often, and with what settings, the vibrator was used. The lawyers for the anonymous plaintiffs contended that the app, "incredibly," collected users' email addresses, allowing the company "to link the usage information to specific customer accounts." Customers' email addresses and usage data were transmitted to the company's Canadian servers, the lawsuit alleges. When a We-Vibe was remotely linked to a partner, the connection was described as "secure," but some information was also routed through We-Connect and collected, the lawsuit says.
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Vibrator Maker To Pay Millions Over Claims It Secretly Tracked Use

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  • Huh (Score:5, Funny)

    by war4peace ( 1628283 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2017 @05:03PM (#54039869)

    There's a bad vibe about all this...

  • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2017 @05:06PM (#54039907)
    Does anyone think that a person who would use a Internet of things Dildo would are about being tracked? Might even be a form of exhibitionism.
    • Husband's and crazy stalkers and shady adult cam site operators.

    • Does anyone think that a person who would use a Internet of things Dildo would are about being tracked? Might even be a form of exhibitionism.

      Yes. People who believe that they have privacy through a privately-owned pair of devices should not have to think about the technological perspectives.

      Everyone needs to get off, but not everyone has a deep understanding of tech.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It's not actually an IoT device. The vibrator itself doesn't have any internet connectivity. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth and an app. It was the app that was sending data back to the manufacturer.

      That may seem obvious to us, but remember that the average person doesn't think of it that way. There still isn't much realization that all apps get internet access and many of them spy on you with it.

      • That may seem obvious to us, but remember that the average person doesn't think of it that way. There still isn't much realization that all apps get internet access and many of them spy on you with it.

        If people don't understand by this time that "apps" send data to someplace. That if there is data, it must be there for some reason. Then they simply never will. Shall we kill the internet because decades after it's inception that some folks don't and I postulate either can't understand, or just don't care.

        People managed to masturbate since there were people, long before the internet. If they think that a special "app" is now needed to jill off, they need to get a grip.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Not all apps send stuff. My firewall confirms it. And the ones that do, you might reasonably expect to keep your masturbatory habits private.

          It's not the consumer that is wrong here, it's the manufacturer.

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2017 @05:07PM (#54039913) Journal

    IOT vibrators, what could go wrong?

    • by sl3xd ( 111641 )

      Thankfully, a whole lot less than you'd see with using IOT for a pacemaker or implantable defibrilator.

      Somebody needs to make it a plot point in a sitcom...

      • by ebvwfbw ( 864834 )

        Oh the hilarity. I'm really mad at him... wait until I see him!!! Guy comes in... OK Buster, I'm whoa....Maa... MMMMMMMMMMMM OMG I feel wonderful! Yes, yes yes yes....

    • by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2017 @05:46PM (#54040137)

      IOT vibrators, what could go wrong?

      A chipped blue tooth?

      • That's still okay. Try using the USB option. Tried missionary, and it didn't fit. Tried doggy style and it didn't fit. Tried missionary again and it slide right in. It doesn't make any sense.

    • by quenda ( 644621 )

      Cum? It is "coming to orgasm", so why do illiterates spell it with a "u"?

      "cum" is a Latin word meaning "with", which survives in place names, e.g. Cockshutt-cum-Petton in Shropshire. Or a 17th century English spelling of "come".

      Is it a deliberate illiteracy intended to give an air of vulgarity, like fuck vs make love? Or should that now be "fuk"?
      Or perhaps simply that schools in some places are failing to teach the language of sex, and burning all the dirty books? I blame American puritanism. (or it th

      • neologism happens from time to time.

        • by quenda ( 644621 )

          Neologisms are generally new words or new meanings. We stopped mucking about with spelling since dictionaries became popular.

          Possibly "come" as a noun is a neologism? I've noticed that Americans love turning nouns (e.g. action) into verbs and vice versa. That can be good. Sometimes.

          • Slang getting an alternate spelling (often due to poor/lazy pronunciation) and becoming a word in its own right is how a lot of new words make it into the dictionary lately (including the abominable "bae").

            • by quenda ( 644621 )

              Slang getting an alternate spelling

              Surely you mean "alternative" :-) Alternate used to be a perfectly good word with its own meaning - alternating current, alternate Tuesdays, etc.

              (including the abominable "bae").

              I had to google that one.

              • Surely you mean "alternative"

                Another example right there.

                From Google:

                2. NORTH AMERICAN
                taking the place of; alternative.
                "the rerouted traffic takes a variety of alternate routes"

        • by thomn8r ( 635504 )

          neolojism happens from time to time.

          FTFY

  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2017 @05:17PM (#54039977) Journal

    Ah so it wasn't the microwave. She must of got her appliances confused and left the wrong one out. Doh

  • I get that it's creepy and all that they would be collecting this stuff, but precisely what law was being broken? Is there a statute about sex toy usage privacy?
    • This shows you shouldn't even be worrying about what law, because your understanding of the legal system is too oversimplified for you to get into details.

      What does a "tort claim" even mean? That's what a lawsuit generally is. If you know even what the legal basis of going to Court to ask them to order somebody to give you money, then you would not ask a stupid question like "precisely what law was being broken?"

    • From what I recall it was specifics about collecting the data in an identifiable way while saying it was actually just anonymous collection in the EULA or something like that. Can't remember right now, but all in all it was a technicality. This isn't some win for users over data gathering.

  • by AlanObject ( 3603453 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2017 @05:28PM (#54040053)

    In ages past, people had to learn not to stand where a mule might kick or step, then don't picnic on railroad tracks, then look both ways before crossing the street, then obey traffic lights. At some point it became common knowledge that electricity was dangerous if you came in contact with it, and radiation could cook you. Did you know not all TV ads are trustworthy? I knew that 50 years ago. There are simple steps you can take to make sure nobody steals your money out of the bank.

    I don't think you could name a decade in the past century or even two where some nugget of knowledge about the world passes into common knowledge. Things that people would be considered stupid or illiterate if they didn't know them.

    Today people should know that anything plugged into the Internet and sends data into it is subject hacked and its data stolen. Sometimes by exploit and sometimes by design. Actually people should have known that 20 years ago if not 30. Longer than that I made the decision to never ever write something in an e-mail or post to a message board (no web then) that I would be upset if it were published on the front page of next day's paper.

    This lawsuit strikes me as akin to someone suing an auto maker because they didn't look both ways before crossing the street. If you don't want someone to know how often you masturbate and how, just don't put it over the 'net. M'kay?

    • I recall in a reading textbook some 55 years or so ago, a plot point in a story was some kids singing a song about someone whose idea of lighting was kerosene lanterns or candles, who checked into a boarding house, got ready for bed, "... and then he blew out the gas."

      Oh poor Mr. Jones, oh poor Mr. Jones
      We'll never see him more,
      Until we meet again some day
      On that far-away beautiful shore

      Point being, any environment you're not familiar with can have unfamiliar hazards, that the people living in that en

    • by buss_error ( 142273 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2017 @07:09PM (#54040551) Homepage Journal

      Today people should know that anything plugged into the Internet and sends data into it is subject hacked and its data stolen.

      Granted. However, the issue here isn't that it was "hacked and stolen" - the data were used without informed consent. Was it buried in the EULA, contract, written in invisible ink? The key here is the concept in contract law that a meeting of the minds has to occur. Obviously, if people knew their masturbatory habits would be put up for sale to the highest bidder, they would have avoided this product.

      I find extremely objectionable your arrogant and superior attitude vis-a-vi "what people should know", not that you'll give a single whit about that. I object to it because when you get caught with "your finger off your number" and goof up, my experience is that you're going to be screaming in supersonic frequencies about how "unfair" it all is. A little imagination and empathy isn't too much to ask of someone. And yes, I'm aware you will be indignant and angry with my observations. Not that I'll give one whit about that, either.

      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        Obviously, if people knew their masturbatory habits would be put up for sale to the highest bidder, they would have avoided this product.

        Obviously you have no idea what obviously means.
        This is just one device where people are tracked and the data sold. It has happened in the past and will happen in the future over and over again, till law will take action that is.

        John Olliver had it right that when he did the Interview in Russia with Edward Snowed that people would not mind to be spied on, untill it was abo

      • It was anonymized data. All it collected was stuff like time of day and settings; the vibrator didn't ask for your social security number, date of birth, bank account number, and names of friends!

        No, this class action suit is a troubling and CLASSIC version of Americans getting all worked up about sex as well as getting money because litigation.
        They collect anonymous usage stats on software and hardware constantly. his just happens to refer to sex.

        Grow up, America.

    • If you don't want someone to know how often you masturbate and how, just don't put it over the 'net. M'kay?

      It's quickly coming to the point where if I don't want to be tracked, I have to give up 99% of everything.

    • Today people should know that anything plugged into the Internet and sends data into it is subject hacked and its data stolen

      In which case no one would ever do online shopping, banking, etc.

      • In which case no one would ever do online shopping, banking, etc.

        I do all those things and more. Like doing this posting behind a pseudonym.

        Unlike some, I have no illusion that my privacy with regard to those actions is absolute or in some cases not protected by law. So I always keep awareness what the consequences would be if my activities were made public with my real name. Then assess the risk of exposure at different levels.

        With that awareness you can do a quick risk/benefit analysis. Then make a rational decision based on personal values. Not just charge ahead

  • Usage frequency broken down by demographics.

  • I wonder how this case relates to the "diagnostics and usage" option that many software packages ask you to enable. Did they settle just because they never presented the user with that deliberately opaque checkbox?
    • No I think it was more to do with collecting information that identifies specific people along with the data.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Seriously, collecting email addresses and connecting the data with that is madness. They deserve everything they get now.

    But still: collecting such data in a way that does not allow to identify users is of course a treasure trove of empiric data you would NEVER get by asking people or by just thinking about the problem at hand (ha!). There is some real knowledge to gain here. It's really down-to-the-ground empiric facts that you can learn here to better serve your customers.

    I fear that too often the privacy

  • by wickerprints ( 1094741 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2017 @06:08PM (#54040249)

    I for one, welcome our new teledildonic overlords. Make America Vibrate Again!

  • Always assume that they're connected to the internet and spying on you.
    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      Always assume that they're connected to the internet and spying on you.

      And even if they aren't, that they have backdoors that can and will enable that at a whim. If a thing has a remote upgrade capability, assume that it one day will start spying on you, even if it doesn't now.

    • Spying? Putting it in that light isn't helpful.

      If that's spying, then the anonymous usage statistics that nearly every application for the last 20 years has been collecting and sending home on the internet is spying.

      • RTFS. The plaintiffs claimed that the data was collected with email addresses attached. This isn't anonymous data collection.

  • Who put the NSA in a Christian summer camp?
  • by jasonbrown ( 142035 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2017 @06:48PM (#54040447) Homepage
    Just kidding! Actually a crime of this magnitude shouldn't be taken lying down.
  • Someone had to say it.

  • by hajile ( 2457040 ) on Tuesday March 14, 2017 @07:08PM (#54040543)
    Paying 3.75 million for what is probably the most detailed study the industry has ever had. A team of market researchers would cost far more and yield far inferior results (even in anonymous studies, people lie and/or forget).
    • It's quite expensive when they could have instead collected a hashed number and buried the tracking in 40 pages of EULA like every other company. I'm sure that would have saved 3.749million dollars.

  • Registered my We-Vibe with the e-mail alias Wayne Tracker [slashdot.org]

  • Your phone is ALWAYS spying on you.

    Welcome to 1984. War is peace. Lies are facts. Hate is love. Freedom is slavery. Surveillance is privacy. Ignorance is strength.

    Thank you, please drive thru.

Mathematicians practice absolute freedom. -- Henry Adams

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