“Don’t kiss and tell” is a lesson Standard Innovation learned the hard—and expensive—way. The company agreed to pay out a US$3.75 million lawsuit settlement for collecting personally identifiable information about its We-Vibe vibrator users without their consent.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. Federal Court by two We-Vibe users who claimed the company gathered information such as when and how long the vibrators were used, along with intensity settings and date and time of use, then paired that data with email addresses. We-Vibe was able to collect the data through the companion We-Connect iPhone app that lets users remotely control the devices.
All that information was transmitted to We-Vibe’s servers. As part of the settlement, according to the Chicago Tribune, We-Vibe’s parent company Standard Innovation agreed to delete the data it collected, alert users in the future if anonymized data will be collected, and offer an opt-out option.
We-Vibe contended the data was necessary for product improvement, although now plans to improve product designs without it.
We-Vibe’s Bad Vibe
Understanding your customers is important and data on how they use your products is critical market research, but there’s a line where too much information is being collected, and the question in this case is whether or not We-Vibe crossed the line. Considering the company collected highly detailed information about how customers were using its vibrators, and then linked that to their email addresses, it seems that line was most definitely crossed.
Collecting user data implied a certain level of trust that the information won’t be abused and that customer’s privacy will be honored. Breaching that trust damages not only We-Vibe and Standard Innovation’s reputation, but casts doubt on other companies, too.
Unfortunately, that’s a lesson device makers don’t seem to easily learn. Vizio recently settled an FTC complaint with a $2.2 million check for secretly monitoring and tracking what viewers were watching and then selling the data to other companies.
What we do in our living rooms and bedrooms counts as private and intimate, and companies breaking that trust are showing a deep disregard for their customers. They’re also showing at least some companies have no problem playing fast and loose with our personal information for their own profit.
There’s no indication that We-Vibe used the data it collected for anything more than improving its own products. That said, rebuilding customer trust will take more than a “sorry” and a settlement check.