13/11/2017 04:12 SAST | Updated 14/11/2017 19:39 SAST

Company Blames Secret Intimate Recordings By Sex Toy On 'Minor Bug'

Vibrator app wasn’t directed to eavesdrop.

A high-tech sex toy company in Hong Kong is blaming a “minor bug” after a customer realized that one of its vibrators was recording human sounds on its own while the gadget was in use.

The wireless remote-controlled vibrator is designed to be operated by a lover across a room — or across an ocean — using a cell phone app. The glitch in the Lovense vibrator was noted by a Reddit poster who discovered that the smartphone used to control a lover’s vibrator was recording and saving sounds at the same time – without being directed to do so.

The full audio file — discovered as tempSoundPlay.3gp — lasted six minutes and was stored in the app’s local folder, noted a startled tydoctor. Some who responded to the Reddit message had similar experiences.

The Lovense app has access to the phone’s microphone and camera, but they’re intended to be used for in-app chats or voice clips for communication, not constant recording.

TLDR: App for remote control vibrator records your sexytime lovemaking sessions

The lovense remote control vibrator app (used to control remote control sex toys made by lovense, such as this one) seems to be recording while the vibrator is on. I was going through my phone media to prepare it for a factory reset and came across a .3gp file named “tempSoundPlay.3gp” in the folder for the App. The file was a FULL audio recording 6 minutes long of the last time I had used the app to control my SO’s remote control vibrator (We used it at a bar while playing pool).

The app permissions allow for mic and camera use, but this was supposed to be for use with the in-app chat function to send voice clips on command. At no time had I wanted the app to record entire sessions using the vibrator.

I’m not tech savvy enough to know if the recording had been sent to them or not, but I assume this is the case given the history of the industry and their disregard for privacy.

I have deleted the app, and will no longer be using its bluetooth functions. It’s unfortunate, because there’s no other way to control the vibrator without the app.

Someone from Lovense popped in on Reddit to assure tydoctor that the recording was caused by a “minor bug,” and the glitch was fixed Nov. 10. “Your concern is completely understandable,” the representative wrote. “But rest assured, no information or data is sent to our servers. The cache file currently remains on your phone instead of deleting itself once your session is finished.”

The glitch affected only Android phones, not iOS devices, according to the Lovense representative.

A Lovense spokesman confirmed to The Verge that the Reddit response was from the company. The rep noted that the bug was blocking recordings from automatically being erased at the end of “sessions.”

A flaw in another Lovense product was discovered in October. A security researcher found that Lovense’s Bluetooth-enabled Hush butt plug could be hacked and a stranger could send a vibrate command. Hackers have warned that commandeering a sex toy used by another could constitute sexual assault and that the devices should be much more secure.

Standard Innovation, the parent company of tech sex toy maker We-Vibe, settled a class action lawsuit for $3.75 million earlier this year after it was discovered that We-Vibe “smart vibrators” were tracking customers’ sexual activity without their knowledge.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story indicated that Standard Innovation lost the class action lawsuit and was ordered to pay $3.15 million to customers. In fact, the company settled the suit for $3.75 million.