JOANNA ELM, Author, Journalist, Attorney

A Comeuppance For A Dastardly Device

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The “dastardly” device in question is the sort of gadget that bestselling author, Karin Slaughter might allow to fall into the wrong hands in one of her dark thrillers; or that my antagonist, a tech-savvy Peeping Tom, might have used in my last crime thriller, DelusionHowever, when Delusion was published twenty years ago we were barely aware of a future with cell phones, never mind smart phones with apps that would allow a partner or spouse ( even when in a different country) to remotely control your vibrator.

Suing A Smart Vibrator

I first wrote about this “wondrous” invention last year when I read a news story in the New York Law Journal about a lawsuit against We-Vibe, the manufacturers of the vibrator and the app. At first, I thought the news item was a belated April Fool’s joke since I’d seen no reference to such a story in any other newspaper or magazine to which I subscribed. I suppose it wasn’t the type of story any “family” newspaper wanted to splash across its front page.

Settling With A Smart Vibrator

However, I also missed the news items about a settlement in the lawsuit (probably because for the last seven months once I’ve finished reading all the news stories and op-ed pieces about the “doings” of the current occupant of the White House, I’m too exhausted to read anything else.) But there was a settlement in the case.

So, below I reproduce part of the “squib” I originally published about the lawsuit against the smartest vibrator in the world, followed by an update on the settlement of the case earlier this year:

Seal of Approval

apple-and-htc-phone Good Housekeeping magazine rated the We-Vibe 4 Plus the “best sex toy for couples.”

Why? Because the vibrator works off a smartphone app so that a partner/lover/spouse can operate it by remote control — “even from another continent.” We-Vibe users can download the We-Connect app from the Apple App store or from Google Play, and install it on their smartphones allowing them and a partner remote control over the vibrator’s settings and features. The We-Connect app is apparently also programmed to allow partners to exchange texts and video chats while using the remote control.

Class Action

United States Court HouseSeal of approval, notwithstanding,  an Illinois woman who doesn’t want the whole world to know that she was using one, is now using the initials N.P. in a federal class action lawsuit brought against Standard Innovations Corp., the Canadian company that produces the We-Vibe 4 Plus and other “sensual lifestyle products.” She claims that the company designed the vibrator and app to “secretly collect and transmit highly sensitive personally identifiable information” about consumers using it.

Hacking Possibility

Two hackers attending Def Con, a hacking conference, in Las Vegas in August revealed that the app was transmitting information back to the company’s servers. The manufacturer has reportedly acknowledged collecting data, but has stated that it is encrypted and protected during transfer and storage. The two hackers also raised the specter of the vibrator being hacked into by strangers, and thus the possibility of sexual assault by someone intercepting the internet connection between the vibrator and the controlling device.

Invasion of Privacy

The class action lawsuit was filed a month ago in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago and alleges that the information includes “time and date of each use [ along with] the selected vibration settings” including desired intensity level, and the user’s personal email address.  N.P is suing for consumer fraud, unjust enrichment, and violations of the Federal Wiretap Act and the Illinois Eavesdropping Statute. She is also seeking an injunction, and damages arising from the invasion of personal privacy.

Oddly enough, the plaintiff does not seem too concerned about the personal privacy of  “all others similarly situated” on whose behalf she is suing. She contends that it is likely the class consists of tens of thousands of individuals who “can be easily identified through Defendant’s records and/or Defendant’s retail partners’ records.

No More Spying For Smart Vibrator

As Forbes.com reported earlier this year:  “Standard Innovation, which produces the We-Vibe line of vibrators, has reportedly agreed to pay out close to $3 million as part of a settlement agreement with customers. The proposed settlement would establish the multimillion-dollar pot for device owners who’d downloaded the control app, We-Connect, and used it with their toy—or up to $10,000 each. The company agreed to set aside another $750,000 for those who’d bought toys but never messed with the app, or a possible $199 each.

Under the settlement, which awaits court approval, the firm also agreed to cease collecting personal user information and email addresses from device users, and to destroy related data it’s collected to date. It further stipulates that Standard Innovation will inform users about any anonymized data collection in the future, and allow them to opt out.”

By my calculation, that means there were approximately 300 plaintiffs who bought the vibrator and used it with the app — and agreed to be part of the class action. Hopefully, when their checks arrive in the mail, they’ll have no problem explaining it to any significant others.

 

 

Photos credit: Bigstockphoto.com; We-Vibe.com

4 Comments

  1. This is truly unbelievable! Even more so in light of the Equifax mess. Don’t know whether to laugh or cry…

  2. I love the last line the most! HaHa!

    • I know, it’s a doozy, isn’t it? I’ve wondered ever since I read about this lawsuit how you explain a piece of mail about that kind of class action, or the settlement if you wanted to keep your purchase a secret from other members in the household.

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