The makers of the We-Vibe connected vibrator are in hot water this week after it came to light that they collect sensitive data from their users without disclosing this fact anywhere in their documentation. Obviously nothing short of full disclosure about what data is being collected and how it’s being used is essential.
But this story is part of a larger debate around data collection, privacy, and innovation. The We-Vibe happens to collect very sensitive information, especially since the idea of sexual pleasure (particularly where women are concerned) continues to be taboo in our culture (that’s a separate topic). But their motivation for doing it is like any other tech company: they want to make their product better.
Yes, it’s to sell more and make more money, but it’s the same thing that every other company is doing. One of the most promising things about connected products is the ability to learn about how people use them and make improvement, or come up with better products altogether. If most people never use the highest vibration setting, maybe it’s too high. Just saying.
It just happens that the data their product deals in is of the most intimate kind. In this case We-Vibe has vowed to destroy its data and stop collecting it in the future. The question becomes, is there information that we just don’t want anyone to have, ever? Even if the data in question is being read an interpreted exclusively by AI?
Will this case set a precedent that will reduce innovation in certain industries because people can’t deal with the idea of their user data being collected? If companies can’t collect data and innovate according, will we see some areas becoming off limits because companies are afraid of getting sued? Data is central to making the decisions that shape product development, UX, and customer experience as a whole. Maybe the connected vibrator was just never meant to be, or we’re just not ready for it yet.
Header Image via Sony Pictures‘ Marie Antoinette