Vibrator Maker To Pay Millions Over Claims It Secretly Tracked Use

Mar 14, 2017
Originally published on March 14, 2017 3:30 pm

The makers of the We-Vibe, a line of vibrators that can be paired with an app for remote-controlled use, have reached a $3.75 million class action settlement with users following allegations that the company was collecting data on when and how the sex toy was used.

Standard Innovations, the Canadian manufacturer of the We-Vibe, does not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement finalized Monday.

The We-Vibe product line includes a number of Bluetooth-enabled vibrators that, when linked to the "We-Connect" app, can be controlled from a smartphone. It allows a user to vary rhythms, patterns and settings — or give a partner, in the room or anywhere in the world, control of the device. (You can see a video promoting the app's features here; be advised, it is briefly not safe for work.)

Since the app was released in 2014, some observers have raised concerns that Internet-connected sex toys could be vulnerable to hacking. But the lawsuit doesn't involve any outside meddling — instead, it centers on concerns that the company itself was tracking users' sex lives.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Illinois in September. It alleges that — without customers' knowledge — the app was designed to collect information about how often, and with what settings, the vibrator was used.

The lawyers for the anonymous plaintiffs contended that the app, "incredibly," collected users' email addresses, allowing the company "to link the usage information to specific customer accounts."

Customers' email addresses and usage data were transmitted to the company's Canadian servers, the lawsuit alleges. When a We-Vibe was remotely linked to a partner, the connection was described as "secure," but some information was also routed through We-Connect and collected, the lawsuit says.

The unhappy users allege in their lawsuit that they never agreed to the collection of this data. Standard Innovations maintains that users "consented to the conduct alleged" — but instead of taking the case to court, the company agreed to settle.

An estimated 300,000 people bought Bluetooth-enabled WeVibes, according to court documents, and about 100,000 of them used the app.

Under the terms of the settlement, anyone who bought an app-enabled vibrator can receive up to $199 dollars; anyone who actually connected it to the app can collect up to $10,000. The actual amount paid out will depend on how many people file claims; the company estimates people who bought the app will get around $40, and people who used the app around $500.

The high-end vibrators cost between $119 and $199, if purchased through the We-Vibe website.

Standard Innovation also agreed to stop collecting users' email addresses and to update its privacy notice to be clearer about how data is collected.

In a statement, Standard Innovation called the settlement "fair and reasonable."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.