With the rapid advancement of technology today, more and more devices are being given access to the internet. From watches, to the television, and even the refrigerator, these devices are now 'connected', with the idea that it makes the user experience better.
However, it does not always necessarily make things better for the user. Companies now have the ability to track their users' moves, with the purpose of knowing how the devices are used, which in turn might potentially invade privacy. This is now the case of a woman in Illinois, claiming that her smart vibrator sent extremely personal details to its maker.
At the DEF CON security conference back in August, hackers revealed that the We-Vibe smart vibrator collected data from its users, like the heat level and vibration intensity. The device maker, Standard Innovation, defended itself, stating that it only collected “certain limited data," and that it pledges to make its terms and conditions better for its customers. It stated further:
As a matter of practice, we use this data in an aggregate, non-identifiable form. Processor chip temperature is used to help us determine whether device processors are operating correctly. And vibration intensity data is used for the purposes of helping us better understand how—in the aggregate—our product features are utilized.
One We-Vibe user, who wished to be called simply "N.P.," filed a class-action lawsuit against Standard Innovation on September 2, according to Courthouse News. This was after the company allegedly demonstrated “a wholesale disregard for consumer privacy rights”, as well as violating “numerous state and federal laws."
The user said that she had bought one vibrator back in May. She has used it several times already, but she was not reportedly aware of how We-Connect monitors and records data, in real time, of how they use the device. The company supposedly failed to mention that this is happening when its devices are used, or that it "transmits the collected private usage information to its servers in Canada.”
Lastly, "N.P." states that the most "intimate details " are at stake, like the date and time of each use, vibration intensity and pattern chosen by the user, and the most alarming, the user's email address.
The five-count complaint of "N.P." asserts violations of the Federal Wiretap Act and Illinois Eavesdropping Statute, intrusion upon seclusion, unjust enrichment, and lastly, consumer fraud. The lawsuit is seeking an injunction and punitive damages.
Standard Innovations, in a message to Gizmodo, defended itself once again over the issue. It stated:
At this time we have not been served and we cannot comment on rumor or speculation. Should we receive additional information, we will review it thoroughly and comment at the appropriate time.
There’s been no allegation that any of our customers’ data has been compromised. However, given the intimate nature of our products, the privacy and security of our customers’ data is of utmost importance to our company. Accordingly, we take concerns about customer privacy and our data practices seriously.
They further stated that they have now engaged external security and privacy experts to conduct reviews regarding the company's data practices, with a view of strengthening data protection and privacy for its consumers. They are now reportedly working on an update which contains new in-app communication regarding their privacy and data practices, as well as a new feature that lets users control which data can be used and sent to Standard Innovations.