Sex toy maker We-Vibe has agreed to pay customers up to C$10,000 (£6,120) each after shipping a “smart vibrator” which tracked owners’ use without their knowledge.
Following a class-action lawsuit in an Illinois federal court, We-Vibe’s parent company Standard Innovation has been ordered to pay a total of C$4m to owners, with those who used the vibrators associated app entitled to the full amount each. Those who simply bought the vibrator can claim up to $199.
The We-Vibe 4 Plus is a £90 bluetooth connected vibrator, which can be controlled through an app. It is marketed as a way to “allow couples to keep their flame ignited – together or apart”. Its app-enabled controls can be activated remotely, allowing, for instance, a partner on the other end of a video call to interact.
But the app came with a number of security and privacy vulnerabilities, which added up to produce something that many would feel uncomfortable about using.
The app that controls the vibrator is barely secured, allowing anyone within bluetooth range to seize control of the device.
In addition, data is collected and sent back to Standard Innovation, letting the company know about the temperature of the device and the vibration intensity – which, combined, reveal intimate information about the user’s sexual habits.
The flaws with the We-Vibe sex toy were first revealed at the Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas in 2016 by New Zealand-based hackers “goldfisk” and “follower”. Speaking there, the pair argued that the problem was a “serious issue”: “unwanted activation of a vibrator is potentially sexual assault”, follower said.
In practice, given the C$4m total settlement and the requirement to pay various legal fees first, most We-Vibe owners are likely to receive somewhat less than the full $10,000 they are entitled to.
In a statement given to press, Standard Innovation said: “At Standard Innovation we take customer privacy and data security seriously. We have enhanced our privacy notice, increased app security, provided customers [with] more choice in the data they share, and we continue to work with leading privacy and security experts to enhance the app. With this settlement, Standard Innovation can continue to focus on making new, innovative products for our customers.”