This came from Lexy. I’ll give you some responses of my own in the coming days, but I thought you might enjoy what she has to say.
The company that makes my favorite vibrator of the past year was outed last month by a couple of hackers.
Standard Innovation Corporation, maker of the we-vibe, has been collecting data on customer usage without disclosing that fact. According to various articles, SIC collects data when users change speed or mode, and collects cpu temperature data every minute.
SIC has generally confirmed this, with some explanation about the business purposes of the data. (Also noting that you are able to sign out and continue to use the app.) SIC’s language is vague enough that they could be collecting more data as well, and the company’s privacy statement is pretty general about “log files.”
I Love the We-Vibe
I purchased the we-vibe almost exactly a year ago, and I loved it right away. Reviews indicate that a woman’s pleasure will really depend on how it fits her body; it works for mine in certain excellent ways.
I almost always use the we-vibe alone, as I don’t find it enjoyable to wear during sex and I never got into the habit of using the app in play with a remote partner. I can’t easily walk around with the we-vibe in me (it slips out), but it works wonderfully in a reclining or sitting position, in any mode, or even off.
I don’t even care about the app, which was supposed to be the main feature. There was a “wow” factor in the beginning about the ability to control internal and external vibration patterns and intensity separately via the app’s nice interface. (Note, use of the app requires a Bluetooth connection between your phone and vibrator.) Then I realized I really, really, really just like the way it fits inside me.
The only trouble I’ve had with the we-vibe is related to the fact that it has an on-off- -intensity-setting-and-Bluetooth-activation button on the vibrator itself. I use this button most of the time and it broke a couple of months after purchase. I filed paperwork and the company sent a new vibrator. That replacement broke six months later, and I haven’t requested a new one yet. (Both times, I found myself in the embarrassing situation of a vibrator that just kept on vibrating until the batteries ran out, even when I was done. Neither the button nor the app would work to shut it off.)
Still, I like the contour of the we-wibe so much that I can (and often do) use it to pleasure myself even without being powered on. Which, of course, also means I’m foiling the data collectors at SIC!
Not Such A Big Deal
First of all, I feel my (and other’s) personal exposure may be limited here. I am under the impression that data is only collected when the vibrator and app are connected via Bluetooth, something I rarely did even when my vibrator still worked. I doubt that SIC “has much on me” in the way of data, and I bet this applies to a lot of people who use the vibrator on their own. I mean, if you’re using your phone while masturbating, it could be for a lot of different purposes.
More importantly, there’s a big divide in the world these days about big data. I’ve sat on both sides. As a private person by nature, I value the ability to control how information about me is used. As someone responsible for decision making, I want information, the more the better. I get why SIC wants this data, and why people are peeved to have it collected without their knowledge. It’s an interesting modern dilemma.
In the instance of the we-vibe, most articles point to two concerns.
- SIC (or anyone who could get access) could use the data to figure out when and for how long “you” masturbate.
- The vibrator could be hacked, might be turned on and operated without a user’s consent.
I am largely, although not entirely, untroubled by both of these concerns.
I don’t think the company cares about “your” masturbation habits. SIC points out that they use the data in aggregate, and reason supports that this would be true. Yes, something embarrassing could be revealed in a data breech, if all the circumstances aligned. It just doesn’t seem all that likely.
The more I think about it, the more I actually am interested in what aggregate data might reveal. Despite the initial “wow” of the app’s many features, I ended up almost exclusively using the basic “bzzzzz” setting to get myself off. Is this true of most people, with most vibrators? I’d always thought so, I think N and I talked about this. The data would tell more.
Finally, yes: your neighbor (or anyone near enough) could hack into your vibrator. YOU could hack into your own vibrator, actually.
The hackers who broke news of the data collection and security risks have created a toolkit to make this possible. I had to read through their presentation summary a couple of times to be sure that their stated intent was for modification of one’s personal toys and raising awareness, not for breaking into other people’s stuff. Actually I think those guys are just curious to see how stuff works. No problem there.
A couple of articles, like this one, have mentioned sexual assault (apparently the hackers mentioned this as a risk in their talk). Another article claimed in its headline, “the dystopian future is here,” but then did not explain why. (I decided against ranting to y’all about that.) Use of teledildonics as aggression against another person is certainly not ok. At all. I haven’t heard anyone raise this possibility in a way that makes me think they are doing anything besides being lazy or alarmist.
I like to think about these kinds of issues, and I’m interested to hear from anyone who responds to either concern differently or who wants to share other ideas.
In the end, I don’t expect my behavior will change as a result of this new information, except for one thing that I’ve already done: confirming that I’m logged out from the app, and that if I do log in, I don’t use my real name. Anyone else reading who uses this technology might want to take this basic step.