The Chicago-area woman (identified only as N.P. in her claim) has filed a proposed class-action suit for violation of federal privacy laws before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against Standard Innovation (US) Corp., which is owned by Standard Innovation Corp. based in Ottawa.
According to the court document, N.P. paid US$130 for Standard Innovation’s We-Vibe Rave vibrator and had used the device “on several occasions.”
The document identifies Standard Innovation as a “sensual lifestyle” company that sells high-end vibrators under the product line called We-Vibe.
We-Vibe Rave is a Bluetooth and Wi-Fi-enabled. It can be controlled via a user’s smartphone by using the company’s We-Connect app, for instance, users can control vibration intensity and patters.
The app also allows partners to remotely control the sex toy remotely. The app also has a “connect lover” feature that allows private exchange text messaged, go on video chats and “control a paired We-Vibe” device.
What could go wrong?
Unknown to the defendants, the complaint said, Standard Innovation “designed the We Connect to collect and record highly intimate and sensitive data regarding consumers’ personal Web Vibe use, including the date and time of each use and the selected vibration settings and transmit such usage data – along with user’s personal email address – to its servers in Canada.”
“Though the data collected from its customers’ smartphones is undoubtedly valuable to the company, Defendant’s conduct demonstrates a wholesale disregard for consumer privacy rights and violated numerous federal laws,” a copy of the complaint, obtained by tech new site Ars Technica, said.
Furthermore, the lawyers for N.P. claimed that Standard Innovation failed to notify or warn customers that WeConnect monitors and records, in real-time, how customers use the device.
Standard Innovation “never obtained consent from any of its customers before intercepting, monitpring and transmitting their usage information” and that the company “concealed its actual data collection policies” from its customers.
In a statement to the Ottawa Citizen, Standard Innovation said “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.”
The company said it is updating its We-Connect app later this month and the update “will include new in-app communication regarding our privacy and data practices and a new feature for consumers to control how their data may be used.”
The idea of companies should build privacy into their device, is something that Ann Cavoukian, former Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner, has been championing for years.
Cavoukian, now executive directive director at Ryerson University’s Institute of Privacy and Big Data, has always maintained that privacy must be “baked into your design architecture, it becomes part of your code.”
Very often privacy capabilities come as an after though in the development of products lagging behind business functionality, security and marketing. The objective of Privacy by Design is to ensure strong privacy and gaining control of one’s private information.
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