Adult Toy Tracked User Activity, Prompts Lawsuit

John Lister's picture

The makers of a remote controlled device for personal pleasure have agreed to pay $3.75 million after allegedly collecting data on how the device was used. Standard Innovations has not formally admitted any wrongdoing.

The company makes several models in the We-Vibe line, each designed for intimate female use. Some of them include a Bluetooth connection that in turn connects to a smartphone. That allows the user or a partner to remotely control the operation and settings of the device, with an option for partners in long-distance relationships to operate the device over the Internet.

Plaintiffs Not Feeling Good Vibrations

According to a lawsuit, the smartphone app was collecting data on how often people used the devices, including the specific settings they selected, then transmitting the data back to the company. According to the lawsuit: the app collected data, which meant that the company could have been able to link specific usage data to individuals.

It's the latter point that is particularly problematic. As such, it takes the case a step beyond the potentially legitimate activity of collecting and collating anonymized data to learn more about which settings were proving popular and using these to improve future models.

What's in dispute is whether customers were aware of the data collection and consented to it. Standard Innovations said this was the case. The two women who brought the lawsuit said this wasn't the case and thus the company had breached the Federal Wiretap Act along with other consumer laws. (Source: theverge.com)

Average Payout Could Be $500

The case received class action status, meaning other customers could share in any award or settlement without having to bring a separate legal case. Standard Innovations agreed to a settlement, meaning that it will pay damages but doesn't admit to any breach of the law.

In theory, the settlement allows for a maximum payout of $199 for anyone who bought one of the devices in question and $10,000 if they went on to use the app. In practice the company will pay a lump sum (funded by insurance policies) to be split between all valid claims.

According to the settlement agreement, based on the estimates of how many people will make a claim, the average payout will be around $40 for those who bought a device and $500 for those who used the app. (Source: npr.org)

What's Your Opinion?

Is the compensation a fair amount? Should customers have assumed the company would collect and use the data? Does it matter if a company has this type of very personal information?

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Comments

Dennis Faas's picture

The privacy and security settings that prompt you for acceptance whenever an app is installed on a smartphone and tablet are very similar to the Windows UAC (user account control) on a PC which asks you for permission to install a program.

In short: if you don't pay attention to what you're agreeing to, the app you're installing can literally spy on you. Unfortunately most apps used on smart devices (phones and tablets) won't install unless you agree to these terms of services, and therefore most people are accustomed to simply agreeing to it just to get the app to install. This is done similarly on the PC - without reading the EULA (end user license agreement) or anything else for that matter, clicking "Next" until "Finish" can easily lead to malware or "bundled goodies" that you didn't ask for.

titan's picture

The government should have a standard, 1 page, EULA that all companies should adhere to and then users wouldn't have to read through every single EULA, many of which are very similar.

IT companies could then have a qualifier allowing for their specific circumstances but this too should be limited to (max) 1 page.

matt_2058's picture

Just click on through! Some of those agreements have ADDED software options, as Mr Faas stated. I've seen it most in free software, like antivirus programs. Then there is the rest, more legitimate software. Those will not function unless you agree to their EULAs, like the MS products, Adobe products, etc.

When apps are involved, it is like the Wild West all over again. No standards, and no teams of lawyers keeping things a little more reasonable to keep them out of the courts. These companies are flying fast and loose with almost no accountability. It's more beneficial to get caught and pay than to not do it to start with. It would be nice to be able to just get an app and not have to consider why it all those permissions, like a flashlite app needing access to photos, music, contacts, and connection data!

What would be real funny is for someone to hack that company, get the raw data, and then social-media publish the 'personal pleasure' activity of those devices associated with company managers! THAT might start getting some attention as to how wrong this sort of crap is.

couchmt_4698's picture

Puts a whole new "spin" on the "pay for play" controversy.