Tracking lawsuit lessons #1 – We-Vibe sued for tracking your sex life

lawsuit1The tracking wars aren’t only being fought between ad blockers and ad tech. Lawyers are also on the front lines and there have been many serious law suits regarding tracking going too far.

In this series I’ll share examples and what you can learn from them, so you don’t fall into a similar trap, starting with something current, and a little bit naughty.


We-Vibe Class Action Lawsuit

For the pure and innocent readers here, We-Vibe is a sex toy for couples. which can be controlled either with the included remote control, or by an app on your phone.

Just like every other app made by competent developers, the We-Vibe app also tracks usage stats. This kind of tracking is used by product makers to create better and safer products, for everyone’s benefit.

Despite this common practice, a class action lawsuit was launched against We-Vibe just last week. The plaintiff’s lawyers cited that their client’s are “understandably, pretty upset” that the tracking includes such intimate details as “when it’s on, how long it’s being used for, what settings it’s on, [and] the temperature of the device.”

We-Vibe is being sued for tracking what sounds like important safety information, like how hot their devices get.

Wait, what?

Companies like Google track everything people do on the Internet, and that activity is connected directly to identity. From search results, emails, and phones, those companies know your sexual preferences, who you’re hooking up with, when, where, and even what STDs you’re sharing with each other. Now that’s intimate!

Yet, We-Vibe is being sued for tracking what sounds like important safety information, like how hot their devices get. Personally, I think that’s important to track and it’s ludicrous to sue them for it, but this is the reality we live in today.

I imagine that We-Vibe has a full screen dashboard on the wall of their office. It probably shows a map of active products, each in a different colour, with lovely charts and numbers showing new and total activations. This dashboard would show how successful they are in real-time, just the sort of thing companies do these days to keep excited and motivated about their products.

No longer. That’s because this lawsuit has prompted We-Vibe to add a prominent private mode to their app, to let their customers opt-out of anonymous tracking. Going forward, the office dashboard will start looking like there’s been a worldwide blackout, and they’ll have a lot less information available for improving their products.

I look forward to seeing how this lawsuit plays out.

Lesson to be learned:

All it takes is just one person getting offended to make your life miserable, so in the era of the tracking wars, make it clear what you’re tracking and why. It’s no longer enough to just have a privacy policy or include a statement about tracking somewhere in a big agreement people sign before using your product.

Similar to how most apps tracks usage, most links track engagement. Just like you legally need to tell people you’re using affiliate links and will receive commissions for products, you should also tell them that you anonymously measure engagement on the links you publish, so you don’t waste your time or their time on things they aren’t interested in.