Ottawa sex toy maker We-Vibe sued for 'secretly collecting' its customers' intimate habits
A quick visit to the website for We-Vibe — a sex toy for couples — shows a list of breathless reviews for the product. "The We-Vibe is AMAZING," one reviewer boasts. "You have a knock-your-socks-off-When-Harry-Met-Sally worthy orgasm."
But a lawsuit filed in Chicago this week claims some customers aren't so stimulated by the product. The suit alleges that the company, based in Ottawa, Ont., collected intimate information about its customers without their consent.
The lawsuit was initially launched by a Chicago-based woman, identified in the statement of claim only as N.P. She purchased the vibrator in May for US$130, downloaded the app that connects to the vibrator and used it on several occasions.
"It has come to our attention that the company was actually recording specific information about her and other individuals usage of the device. That would include when it's on, how long it's being used for, what settings it's on, the temperature of the device ... When that came to light, [our client] was, understandably, pretty upset," Eve-Lynn Rapp, a San Francisco-based attorney handling the case, tells As It Happens host Carol Off.
Here's how the We-Vibe product works: the vibrator itself can be controlled on its own, or remotely through a smart-phone app called We-Connect. Rapp says customers who have used the product through the app could be covered under this class-action suit.
"If [the customer] is connected to the app, their email address could be on there. The company will also track the IP address — which would allow them to understand where [the customer] is located," Rapp explains.
For its part, We-Vibe says its data collection is simply used to make the product better.
"We do collect certain limited data to help us improve our products and for diagnostic purposes ... As a matter of practice, we use this data in an aggregate, non-identifiable form," read a statement.
To Rapp, that explanation isn't good enough.
"Any disclosure they're making is wholly insufficient — that would inform people in an explicit way. This is the type of situation where any type of disclosure must be really specific, so there is no doubt, and people fully understand what they're agreeing to, and the company is not doing that."
Since the lawsuit, We-Vibe says it wants to assure customers that its information is safe and secure.
"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," the company said in a separate statement.
For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Eve-Lynn Rapp.