Friday, 17 March 2017

Are we spying on you?

You may or many not be aware that Standard Innovation, the makers of an internet connected vibrator called the We-Vibe have recently settled a massive $3.75 million dollar lawsuit in the US for breach of privacy over data their app controlled vibrator was sending back to them when in use.

Firstly I would point out that Standard Innovation have reportedly settled the case early to avoid the prolonged litigation and ever spiralling costs that defending such a case entails in the US, so whether they are guilty or not is notwithstanding.

Panic panic it's creepy
Now you will read many option pieces on how creepy this all is and 'why would a company want to monitor my orgasms?', but I think the truth is a little more basic. The data was sent back not because there was some pervert in a back room who got off on how many times you played with a vibrator, but simply because the hardware had the capacity to do so, and someone probably though it was 'a good idea'.

No secret bunker
Now as a company that produces an Electrosex Power Box that can be controlled over the Internet (the 2B) I can categorically state that the 2B has no capacity to talk directly to us or our servers, let alone send any data about its use to our secret underground bunker.

The internet is not private
Connecting anything across the internet is never totally private.

Unless you use high levels of encryption someone has the capability to look at what is going on.

Direct Contact
When using our 2B across the internet we use direct computer to computer communication so the only people who have access to any form of data are you and your play partner, although the servers that make up the internet between the two of you will have access to data, in the same way they have access to your normal browsing (we use the same technology), but I doubt anyone is interested in 'A20' or 'B44' being passed between your computers, and they would also need to know details of the specific IPs of your machines, and what port you are using. If they know that already I would either get your tin hat out as the CIA or GCHQ are watching, or you need to update your web security and start changing your passwords.

Because they could
Now I'm not excusing what Standard Innovation might have done, but I can understand some of the possible reasoning behind the actions, IF they were actually thought about. Too many times we designers do it because we can (and Standard Innovation are using off the shelf chips that have the functionality already built in), and either forget to tell others, or others in the company didn't understand the consequences of such actions and technology - the result is a statement buried in reams of T's and C's and probably converted into legalise, a statement that was clearly not clear enough for the users who brought the case.

Why would you want to?
From a technical perspective how long a device is being used and at what intensity and at what temperature would allow a manufacturer to consider whether the batteries they are using are too big (and thus more expensive) - if the average person only uses something for 20 mins before charging then do you need a device that can last for two hours? Or does it run for 10 mins before cutting out, but only when the temperature is 42C?? (The human body is generally 38.1C).
Both are useful pieces of data from a design perspective and would mean a company could make an improved product - generally this means cheaper to manufacture, but that is something that all manufacturers strive to achieve ( its call reducing costs).

Learning lessons
You could argue that temperature and usage information is 'personal data' even more so when coupled with email addresses and registration on a sex toy driving app and I agree to a certain extent it could be, but we do need to have some level of responsibilities both from a manufacturer keep are users clearly informed, but we also have responsibilities as a user.

When is the last time you read the T's & C's on a product or service? Do you know why a website is asking you for your email address and what they are planning to do with it?

I know as a company we will take on board any lessons that need to be learned, but I do think some commentators need to dial down the scare stories and actually think about what happens when modern technology is applied to sex toys.

Just my personal opinion.

And the answer is no, we are not spying on you.

E-Stim Systems Ltd