Makers of the We-Vibe have agreed to delete all the hump and vibe info they stored without users’ consent.
The first time I heard about the We-Vibe I was in a Victoria, BC sex shop, where a 38-year-old woman told me about her search for something that could vibrate inside her as she goes about her daily tasks. She was scoping out the Canadian-made sex toy because it could be controlled remotely via her partner’s phone app—a fantasy that seemed genuinely futuristic three years ago.
Now the future has truly arrived, as the sex toy maker is paying out a massive $3.75 million settlement to make a class-action lawsuit go away. Standard Innovation, the company that seemingly invented remote-control vag-zapping, is accused of spying on users without consent and breaking a bunch of privacy laws.
A lawsuit filed in Illinois last year alleged the company was collecting “highly personal” information about its user’s diddling habits, from how frequently they’re taking care of business, to the intensity settings they’re using in real time.
The company has admitted no wrongdoing, but has agreed to empty its Canadian servers of all the vibrator-related personal info, and stop collecting it in future.
We-Vibe app users can claim up to USD $10,000 in damages. There are roughly 300,000 users out there, about a third of which use the app. To the woman I met in Victoria, if you’re out there, getting in on this cash bonanza would be the greatest act of self-love.
Once the CIA’s weapons have been disarmed, WikiLeaks would post the code publicly, Assange said. (Photo: Reuters)
WikiLeaks will give technology companies exclusive access to alleged CIA documents to help them repair security flaws that allowed the government to spy on individuals through their smart devices, the organization’s founder Julian Assange said Thursday.
“Considering what we think is the best way to proceed and hearing these calls from some of the manufacturers, we have decided to work with them to give them some exclusive access to the additional technical details that we have so that the fixes can be developed and pushed out, so people can be secure,” Assange said in a Facebook live address from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has lived in exile since 2012.
WikiLeaks on Tuesday released a trove of documents purporting to show that the CIA exploited security flaws in mobile phones, smart TVs, and other devices that allowed the intelligence agency to listen in on users in their own homes. But the documents did not disclose what those flaws actually were—instead showing user guides, developer manuals, and other communications.
The group said it held back publishing that information to “[avoid] the distribution of ‘armed’ cyberweapons” until there was a “consensus” on how to dismantle them.
Once they have been disarmed, WikiLeaks would post the code publicly, Assange said.
CIA spokesman Dean Boyd responded to Assange’s comments by stating that he was “not exactly a bastion of truth and integrity.”
WikiLeaks fired back, “but he literally won the award for just that,” referring to the 2010 honor Assange received from the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, an organization founded by retired CIA officers that recognizes intelligence whistleblowers.
During the press conference, Assange again reiterated the group’s claim that the documents show the CIA has lost its grip on its vast surveillance enterprise.
“The Central Intelligence Agency lost control of its entire cyberweapons arsenal,” Assange said. “This is an historic act of devastating incompetence to have created such an arsenal and stored it all in one place and not secured it.”
Following Wikileaks Vault 7 release alerting Americans to the fact that the CIA is using tons of exploits to turn all sorts of internet-connected smart devices into surveillance microphones, granting the intelligence agency access to millions of people’s private homes, people started asking questions.
DPhil Candidate in Philosophy, Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford
January 11, 2017
Carissa Véliz does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
It is inconvenient to guard one’s privacy, and the better one protects it, the more inconvenience one must endure. Enjoying privacy, at a minimum, demands installing software to block tracking online, using long and different passwords for online services, remembering to turn off the WiFi and Bluetooth signals on your mobile phone when leaving the house, using cash, and so on.
The more privacy conscious have to go through the trouble of using encryption for all their messages, covering the camera on their laptop with a sticker, suffering the slowness and limitations of using Tor (a software that enables anonymity online), and may even be willing to forgo the many advantages of having a mobile phone altogether.
Companies and institutions should not make it this hard for people to enjoy privacy – we shouldn’t have to go through all this trouble to make good on a right. However, we live in a non-ideal world, where it is more and more a fact of the matter that governments and businesses exploit people’s personal information for economic and political reasons.
So, individuals living in the real world are faced with the dilemma of either complying with the default option and surrendering their privacy, or trying to resist exposure through paying a high price in inconvenience. It makes sense to ask whether privacy is worth all the trouble.
Imagine going into a shop, picking out whatever you fancy, putting it in your bag, and simply walking out. No cash, no credit cards, no queues. Cameras using facial recognition have identified you and you will be billed automatically. You rarely go into shops, anyway. Only when you feel like going for a stroll, or when you wish to explore new products. Most of the time, everything in your house gets restocked automatically through sensors connected to the Internet of Things. That future may not be far away. Amazon just opened a checkout-free shop in Seattle, and may soon open more stores in the UK.
The inconvenience of convenience
The bright side of convenience is an attractive one: it promises us an easier life. Convenience, like pleasure, is an important component of a good life. If we didn’t choose convenience every now and again our lives would be hopelessly uncomfortable and inefficient.
It is inconvenient to only buy from socially responsible businesses, to exercise, to find new things to do, to keep well informed, to vote and protest when governments commit injustices. A good life demands a reasonable degree of struggle – the right balance between the ease of convenience and the benefits of meaningful efforts. Like pleasure, convenience has to be weighed against the price we are paying for it, and the short- and long-term consequences that might ensue.
Weighing up the losses
Unfortunately, it is not easy to assess the weight of privacy losses. Typically, in the online world, no small privacy loss will create a catastrophe. One business tracking one click of yours is not a big deal. But privacy losses accumulate, and the entirety of what you have revealed online through browsing, clicking, buying and liking, can paint a frighteningly detailed portrait of you.
Privacy losses are like ecologic damages or health deterioration: no one act of littering, no one puff of a cigarette will bring about disaster, but the sum of them through time might.
What possible damage could come from giving up privacy online, you may wonder. If you ask for a job, it is likely that the company considering hiring you will buy a file on you from data brokers. Your file may contain information on browsing habits, credit history, health records, and more. The company may not hire you because of something you posted on social media, or because of some other kind of “stain” on your record, and you will never know why it was, nor will you ever be able to contest that decision.
Similarly, a bank may not grant you a loan from information they glean from you on the internet. The information on which they make their decision may be inaccurate, but again, you will never know. Hackers could turn on your camera and blackmail you with sensitive footage. Criminals may commit identity theft.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft complaints in the US increased by 47% between 2014 and 2015. Trolls may harass you online and offline. Insurance companies may charge you according to information about your habits. Products such as flights may become more expensive for you depending on how much you seem to want them. And the list goes on.
It is paramount that we demand businesses and government institutions enable us to enjoy privacy online more easily. In the meantime, however, you might want to think twice about surrendering your privacy for the sake of convenience.
High-tech washing machines and fridges will soon be used by detectives gathering evidence from crime scenes, experts have forecast.
The advent of ‘the internet of things’ in which more devices are connected together in a world of ‘smart working’ could in future provide important clues for the police.
Detectives are currently being trained to look for gadgets and white goods which could provide a ‘digital footprint’ of victims or criminals.
Mark Stokes, the head of the digital, cyber and communications forensics unit at the Metropolitan Police told The Times: “Wireless cameras within a device, such as fridge, may record the movement of owners and suspects.
“Doorbells that connect directly to apps on a user’s phone can show who has rung the door and the owner or others may then remotely,m if they choose, to give controlled access to the premises while away from the property.
“All these leave a log and a trace of activity. The crime scene of tomorrow is going to be the internet of things.”
The new Samsung Family Hub Fridge has cameras that carry a live feed of its contents, so shoppers can tell what they need when they are out at the shop. The dates and times that people logon to the fridge, therefore could provide alibis or prove people were not were they said they were.
Mr Stokes said detectives of the future would carry a ‘digital forensics toolkit’ which would allow them to analyse microchips and download data at the scene, rather than removing devices for testing.
However the police could come up against opposition from companies making the gadgets, who are concerned about the privacy of their customers.
In the US, Amazon is currently fighting requests by the US authorities to hand over recordings from one of its Echo home entertainment systems belonging to James Andrew Bates.
Officers in Arkansas are investigating the murder of Victor Collins who was found dead at Mr Bates’ hot tub in 2015. They have already taken evidence from an electric water meter, which appears to show that a huge amount of water was used. Detectives say it could have been to wash blood away from the patio.
The Echo delivers weather forecasts, controls thermostats and light switches, and plays music. But it also has artificial intelligence and improves over time based on the owner’s voices so could provide insight into what happened on the night of Mr Collins’ death.