I’m always a little bit bummed out when I have to write about something that’s gone wrong in the sex tech industry — but I also think it’s my duty to keep you all informed, especially when its about information that other sex tech innovators can learn from. With that in mind, today I want to share the news that a class-action suit has been filed against Standard Innovation Corp., which is the company behind the hugely popular We-Vibe sex toys.
Future of Sex reports that a complainant identified as “N.P.” has alleged that We-Vibe has been collecting data about how people use their app-connected vibrators — including IP addresses, date, time, how long they used them, and temperature of the toy — without permission. And you know what another word for permission is? Consent. And you know what’s not cool? Non-consensual sexual activity which, if these allegations are true, users would be justified in calling this.
This is hugely problematic, folks, even in a world where we’re giving up more of our privacy online every day. Sure, none of read the Terms of Service when we sign up for a a new software — they’re specifically written a way that we won’t. But there’s a big difference between Facebook tracking your website visits in order to sell you ads and a sex toy company tracking your very personal sexual activity in order to… What?
If we assume the best of them, it’s in order to improve their product. But if we assume the worst, this data could be used for anything from serious invasions of privacy like like selling the information to people who would use to get off without the user’s permission to targeted sexual health advertisements, which is just creepy.
“When they [Windows or Apple] wOnts to track your diagnostic information about how you read your word document they actually ask you,” the plaintiff’s lawyer, Eve-Lynn Rapp, told Sputnik News. “It is usually something like, ‘we see your computer has shut down, can we send your diagnostics to Microsoft for analysis?’ There is nothing like that over here in this lawsuit.”
Now, obviously I’m pro-sex tech. I’ve been singing the praises of new companies that are figuring out innovative ways to get us off since almost the advent of app-connected sex toys. I’m also someone who comes from a startup background, so I know all too well how easy it is to do thing incorrectly either because as a new founder, you simply don’t know better or because you’re so focused on the end game that you take less-than-scrupulous steps with the idea that the end justifies the means.
But the end doesn’t justify the means and this is one area where sex companies in particular need to tread very, very carefully. For most people, sex is an extremely private act and app-connect sex toys or any other kind of sex tech product need to get explicit consent before collecting or using any data related to what customers are doing. As with any other sex act, enthusiastic consent must be obtained here.
Otherwise, not only are companies being shady — they’re opening themselves up to lawsuits like this. And who wants that?
Image: Léa Dubedout