Posted April 12, 2017 by Andy in Thoughts

Consent Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love We-Vibe

I was going to call this post “Consent Or Why It Matters That We-Vibe Stole Our Data” but I couldn’t help but throw in the Dr. Strangelove reference. I guess I’m too big a Peter Sellers fan to let that opportunity slip.

This is a serious post, though. And, to be quite honest, I’m surprised to need to write a post about consent in 2017, not when the audience is other sex toy reviewers and bloggers. I mean, writing posts about consent is quite normal. People in general don’t appear to understand how important it is. But sex bloggers? They write and tweet about consent all the time. Why do they need reminding about it? Honestly? I don’t know. But there appears to be a certain amount of cognitive dissonance out there in the blogosphere where consent only matters in some areas.

In case you’re not aware of what happened, We-Vibe released an internet enabled toy that relayed data back to them about how the toy was used, vibration patterns etc. WITHOUT USERS’ CONSENT.

I thought I’d emphasise that last point as that’s where the issue lies. They did it without consent.

Now, there have been posts and tweets about how it’s not that bad and how we need to remember context and that their only crime was not disclosing what they were doing to customers and how they apologised very nicely afterwards. None of that matters. I don’t care how little data was stolen. I could fill a whole article about the data they specifically stole* but, for the purposes of this post, that doesn’t matter either. I would have written it anyway. Consent is one of those issues that’s binary. Consent is what matters.

I also don’t care that they apologised. Do you know when they apologised? When they were caught. They didn’t come clean on their own. They didn’t forget somehow to include a message of intent and reissue it to all customers. They didn’t even hide it away in some huge disclosure text that would have been missed because most people don’t read them. They didn’t let people know AT ALL. And then they only apologised when they were found out.

What kind of a message would we be sending to companies if we allowed them to continue doing this? Sure! Go ahead and steal data from us without letting us know. Just be sure to issue that token apology if we catch you, ok?

This is what’s known as the thin end of the wedge. If we let companies steal data from us and give them a pass when they issue a quick ‘sorry’ then they’ll continue. And it’ll be worse next time. We need to stamp this out on principle.

I’m still not entirely sure why bloggers are being so dismissive of this. Maybe it’s because they subconsciously don’t want to lose out on any affiliate cash they’re making from We-Vibe. Maybe there’s a certain amount of cognitive dissonance involved. But it needs to stop. Bloggers need to go back to being staunch defenders of individual rights and stop sounding like Republicans defending Donald Trump’s wandering hands. Consent matters.


*The complaint alleged that “unbeknownst to its customers […] (Standard Innovation) designed We-Connect to collect and record highly intimate and sensitive data regarding consumers’ personal We-Vibe use, including the date and time of each use and the selected vibration settings, and transmit such usage data — along with the users’ personal email address — to its servers in Canada.” The courts agreed.