With great technology comes great responsibility. But, unfortunately, as we’re starting to see more and more, the responsibility of guarding user privacy isn’t always the most important thing to tech founders. We’re all familiar with privacy invasions by the big social networks (because they always make the biggest headlines) but an area near and dear to my own heart has been reckoning with some privacy issues lately.

Sex tech startups.

The latest is a report from Engadget that the Android Lovense app was recording and storing audio from people’s sessions with their Bluetooth-enabled toys. This was discovered by a Reddit user who found the files in stores on their device and wrote a post about it. Lovense responded that while the app is supposed to record people’s sessions so that people can use their Sound Control feature, it’s definitely not supposed to store them.

Lovense reports that the app has been updated to do what it was supposed to do in the first place — delete the files immediately after a session is complete — and that users can find the updated version in the Google Play store.

This isn’t the first time an app-connected sex toy company has been faced with charges of privacy violations. We-Vibe, one of the most famous companies creating this kind of toy, recently settled a class-action lawsuit for $3.75 million. They paid for collecting and recording personal information, including when people used the toy, temperature, and which settings they used.

I’ve written a lot about app-connected sex toys over the years — and pretty much all of it has been good. But I largely stopped after the We-Vibe scandal because I realized that I hadn’t thought enough about the potential for privacy violations with these toys. The more I learn about how easy it is to hack into someone’s wifi or Bluetooth connection, the less comfortable I feel recommending toys like this.

I also realize that the “fail fast and iterate” mentality of the startup world — which is also something I support a lot in my writing — is dangerous for user privacy in general, but especially dangerous when we’re talking about sex toys. Perhaps we need to raise the bar for what a minimal viable product is in the sex tech world.

If nothing else, every current and future company that wants to help people control their sex toys remotely needs to have a clear privacy plan laid out. Is there any way they might be collecting data without realizing it? Are their toys hackable? What security measures have they taken?

As for me, I’ve slowed my enthusiasm for recommending these toys. And that’s a bummer. All sex comes with some degree of risk, but I firmly believe we all deserve to make fully informed decisions about the risks that we’re taking and, in the case of app-enabled sex toys, we’ve only been getting part of the picture. I think there’s so much potential for new and exciting ways to get each other — and ourselves — off. But I’m going to be much more critical and I’m going to push these security questions more as we move forward.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.