In the modern age of security and wireless everything, privacy is on everyone’s mind; except in our most intimate moments. In 2017 and 2018, some privacy issues came to light regarding some of the Lovense sex toys designed not only for personal use but for couples to enjoy intimate moments together even when at a great distance from each other.
Are Lovense sex toys spying on its users?
Technically No, Lovense has had in their agreements that users agree to that they are allowed to record audio while the App is in use. This previous “feature” has since been removed and was historically only affecting Android users.
Why does it matter what information is or may potentially be available when someone chooses to use a sex toy, either solo or with a partner at a distance?
Beyond the violation of someone’s most intimate moments, there is something to be said for having a feeling of trust when dealing with a company. Many individuals question whether they can trust these companies at all and if that means they should give them their business or go elsewhere.
In this article, we will help you to understand what happened to cause privacy to be a concern, what Lovense did and did not do in response, and fill you in on what you can expect from these toys and your personal security now.
Are Lovense Sex Toys Spying on You When Being Used?
The short answer to this question is no. The toys themselves do nothing to record or monitor the use of the teledildonic toy. The remote apps used to control the toy, either on your own or by a partner, has had some issues in the past with allowing access to user information.
The information collected (prior to current updates and bug fixes) included statistical data such as frequency of use, server data, and the date and time stamps. Lovense stated all along that all data collected was within the privacy agreement all app users must agree to before accessing the remote app to control their device.
The Problem Revealed
It is no surprise that the issue eventually became the focus of a lawsuit. In January 2018, court documents filed in San Francisco, California claimed that the Lovense company “secretly collected and transmitted highly sensitive personally identifiable information” while other claims suggest the company recorded audio without the knowledge of the user (or users).
Read Between the Lines
What must be understood by anyone agreeing to use any type of remote app is the need for these apps to download and upload certain types of information for the apps to work correctly over an extended period or distance.
We have come to enjoy the near-instant satisfaction of live video, chat, and information, without thinking twice on how that data is transmitted.
One user claimed to stumble upon an audio file of a recent session with their partner using the Lovense remote app.
That user apparently did not understand that the app would be recording the audio of the session, seemingly unaware that every time any video or audio app is used on a smartphone temporary files are usually stored and may be used by the company for research, development, and programming information. Every app that uses a phone’s mic or camera must be authorized to do so.
Lovense Response to Claims and Lawsuits
Lovense has repeatedly referred to the terms of service that ALL users must agree to before being able to utilize the mobile app and connect it to their sex toy.
Further, confirmed representatives of the company have confirmed “bugs” in earlier programming that failed to remove cached data after a set length of time. However, as of publishing, this “bug” has apparently been fixed.
Lovense did end up settling an earlier class-action lawsuit for $3.75 million. Does that mean the company is at fault?
Only you can truly be the judge of what it means when a company chooses to settle a class-action lawsuit. There could be a number of reasons that a company decides to pay money rather than endure the lengthy process of a civil trial.
What Can You Learn From the Lawsuits?
Regardless of whether you feel that your privacy may be at risk or not, one major take-away from this is to learn awareness in all things wireless. Take a look at these common privacy issues when using mobile apps of all kinds, including linked to sex toys:
- Internet privacy (in the US) is monitored by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). While they do offer several guidelines to companies for protecting consumer privacy, they are simply guidelines and hard to LEGALLY reinforce.
What this means: Users have little legal recourse for privacy issues when using unsecured mobile and remote apps.
- Less than ¼% of people actually read a user and privacy agreement before allowing access to personal data, microphones, cameras, and other information stored on their devices.
What this means: One study found that only 9 out of 500 users tested read through an agreement.
- Even the FTC is not concerned with user groups with fewer than 5000 members.
What this means: Apps can be developed and downloaded over and over before the FTC even considers them an issue. Usually, issues are only found after a problem is reported directly to the FTC.
- Privacy settings on your phone can be changed when allowing access to some apps.
- Third-party permissions – many apps require allowing third-party access in order for the app to run correctly (usually in the form of ads). This means that you may automatically be agreeing to additional terms of service without knowing it.
- Most permissions requested by any individual mobile app has nothing to do with the app or how it needs to work. This attaches tracking information (such as cookies) to some of your activities even when the app is not in use.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Privacy?
In a perfect world, we would not have to be extra diligent and be able to trust that companies are all honest and will only use our personal data on how and when they absolutely must. In the case of Lovense, the data collected was, in reality, very minimal, and only used to improve the app for their users.
Up your privacy protection for your distance sex play by following these tips, which applies to Lovense and any other app used in conjunction with teledildonics.
- Read the user agreement thoroughly – look for words and phrase that may not make sense to you and make sure you fully understand EVERYTHING before agreeing.
- Only give permissions that are necessary for the app to work as desired. If you are not going to be using video, do not allow access to your camera
- Clear your cache and unused data on a regular basis. Check your user’s manual for information on how to clear this information on your specific device.
- Update your apps. App designers are constantly changing, tweaking, and fixing issues found in apps, including privacy issues as they are made aware of them. Using an out of date app may cause you some issues.
Other good resources are to read up on privacy laws in your country. Sites like IAPP (International Association of Privacy Professionals) and ICLG (International Comparative Legal Guides) which has high quality content covering privacy laws.
They can tell you what is and isn’t allowed in your country and new updates or changes coming to your country.
The Current State of Sex Toy Privacy
As mentioned, Lovense maintains there was never a real threat. However, they along with several other teledildonics companies have adjusted their privacy policies slightly and added information in their terms of service to help educate their consumers.
Here is the Lovense answer to the question data protection:
“We take your privacy very seriously. We have designed our system to record as little information about our users as possible. Every byte of your data that passes through our servers, including your text, picture, and voice messages, are fully encrypted using the same data encryption technology as Google, Skype, Facetime, and other industry leaders.
All video calls are peer-to-peer with end to end encryption and never pass through our servers. Furthermore, none of your data is ever kept on our servers longer than seven days.”
Can Your Sex Toys be Hacked?
After the lawsuits and claimed of privacy breaches died down, some users began to question whether these sex toys could be hacked.
This is a scary thought when you consider that these toys are used by men and women in very vulnerable states. It is important to feel some sense of security when you are in an intimate moment.
Is it Possible to Hack a Sex Toy Via Bluetooth?
The truth is, it is possible for someone with minimal hacking skills to hijack the Bluetooth signal that a toy emits. HOWEVER, anyone who has ever tried to sync to a Bluetooth speaker can tell you that distance is the most important feature.
The Bluetooth signal in sex toys is a low signal, meaning it has very little power to go through walls, doors, or other obstacles. In reality, the only way someone could hack your toy’s Bluetooth is to be within approximately 5 feet or so.
What About Hacking the Mobile App for Your Sex Toys?
Like we discussed above, how vulnerable your sex toy app maybe is going to depend on the permissions that you allow. Hackers can get to the informational data that is used to communicate between the app and server, that does not mean they would have any use for the data.
However, in countries where either sex toys, or how they are used may constitute illegal behavior, it is understandable how many users would be concerned that even encrypted data could be used to uncover the use of the toys and put them at risk.
According to individuals that make a living by exploring security vulnerabilities, the reality is that the only hacking going on is by those purposely trying to seal any security risks before something happens.
The Bottom Line
What does all of this mean for the average user?
Here is a rundown of what has happened (that we know of), what has changed, and what is currently being done to protect the privacy of sex toy users of all types.
- We know that there were several claims that toy companies, such as Lovense, were collecting data from users. This data included the times, dates, duration, and patterns. This information was reported only collected for a short time to be used for analytical purposes, in order for the companies to improve their products, apps, and customer experiences.
- Several class-action lawsuits were filed, including one against Lovense, claiming a violation of privacy. The claimants stated that the terms of service at the time did not fully and properly disclose that the information would be gathered and analyzed by servers or anyone associated with the company or its partners.
- All lawsuits to date, that we were able to find, have been settled out of court. This included the lawsuit filed against Lovense in San Francisco. One lawsuit was reportedly settled for $3.75 million, with all recipient names not disclosed to the public.
- Since mid-2018, ALL teledildonics companies have updated their mobile apps to include more security measures. The apps that allow video or audio have included separate permission requirements that all users can allow or deny.
- Updated Terms of Service are commonly found among mobile app users.
- Some teledildonics companies have hired independent security personal, also known as white hat hackers, to help them discover and fix holes in their security programming.
- Encryption measures have increased significantly in the past 12 months.
The Best is Yet to Come – One Company Steps Up
One of the most important changes to come out of all of the trouble has to be that they now take the privacy and security of their users seriously. Companies, such as We-Vibe have implemented changes to their encryption and data collection that does not retain any user data unless the user was explicitly opt-in for their data to be collected and used by the company.
If a hacker were to find a way in, the only information they are likely to find is the number of active users and how most of them may be using their devices. No personally-identifying information is available to be hacked.
Privacy and Security Best Practices
Nothing is ever going to be 100% secure when it uses wireless signals and mass encryption. At least as long as there are people that are determined to get the information.
Security experts such as taking a few precautions in the future when purchasing and using a teledildonic sex toy.
Look for Bluetooth Encryption Mode 3
This information is not always the easiest to find, so you may have to do some digging, or even email the company that you are considering buying from to ensure that they are using this level of encryption with their sex toys.
Deactivate GPS and Turn Off the Toy
When you are not using your toys, make sure to block the GPS signal when not being used for distance play. You will also want to make sure to power down your toy, not leave it on standby. This will eliminate the possibility of being detected by a portable Bluetooth scanner.
Always Update Your Privacy Settings and Apps
As mentioned above, companies are always fine-tuning their privacy and terms of service. White hat hackers are constantly making suggestions for improvements that lead to small adjustments to the programming for the app to make them more secure. Regular updates help keep you secure.
A quick search of the internet will uncover several stories with outrageous claims that sex toy companies are secretly collecting personal data, or someone is lurking online just waiting for the opportunity to take control of your new favorite or potentially new favorite toy.
The reality is that these companies live and die by their customer’s satisfaction. They have nothing to gain by breaching those moments that you hold most intimate.
Additionally, as of publication, no lawsuit for any case against a company that manufactures or sells sex toys that use remote mobile apps has traveled completely through the judicial system in any country, though several settlements have been reached outside of court proceedings. There is currently a lawsuit still in the judicial system, only time will tell how it turns out.
Only you can be the real judge of how risky you think these types of sexual gratification devices may be and whether they pose a real and true threat.
Otherwise, you can choose to enjoy the pleasures these toys can offer both to yourself and your chosen partner. No matter which you choose, we hope that you can feel secure in your decision and find peace of mind, within your own personal space.
Finally, we sincerely hope you have found the information within this article informative and somewhat helpful.
We all have needs and an understanding of private matters. It helps to know we are not alone in the worry that those moments may be at risk.