As sex toys continue to get hacked, the definition of sexual assault is under question

By Alma Fabiani

Published Sep 4, 2019 at 11:03 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

The rise of the teledildonics industry, also known as connected sexual pleasure products, creates new fun ways for us to pleasure ourselves and our partners, with inventions such as vibrating Wi-Fi-enabled butt plugs and webcam-connected dildos. But teledildonics, just like everything else in our modern age it seems, are another privacy nightmare ridden with security flaws. Since 2018, there have been a number of reported hacked sex toys, and the most recent case makes me wonder: should we go back to good old non-connected sex toys just to avoid them getting hacked mid-sesh?

Privacy counts across all aspects of life, especially as we live surrounded by and depending on technology. That’s why, when it comes to smart sex toys, our privacy should count even more. According to Mozilla, an internet-connected device (sex toys included) has five minimum security standards: it must use encrypted communications, have automatic security updates, require a strong password, have a system in place for vulnerability management, and, finally, have a privacy policy that is easily accessible. I don’t know about you, but I’ve personally never checked for these five conditions in a sex toy before.

Evidently, I’m not the only one. Most recently, a woman had her butt plug hacked and controlled while she was presenting on stage. It later turned out to be a stunt designed to demonstrate to the audience just how susceptible these devices are to getting hacked. This incident sparked a frenzy as people feared it would happen to them. Not only would having your vibrator hacked be very strange, but it would also be done without your consent—just like the data-collection techniques that are used by Facebook, Alexa, and most technologies.

Marloes-Haarmans

In 2017, a man called Alex Lomas walked around Berlin and had to use only his phone in order to pull up a list of Bluetooth discoverable Lovense Hush butt plugs, ready to be hacked, just to manifest how easy it was. Last year, SEC Consultants looked at sex toys from Vibratissimo and demonstrated how they could be broken into by hackers not only to “remotely pleasure” people, but also to access owners’ account details. Even more worrying, a Wi-Fi-connected dildo’s internal camera was found to be easily accessible.

What can be said about hacking sex toys and consent laws? Because these are quite uncharted territories, we don’t know just yet what to do when someone hacks a sex toy or its data. In some countries, such as the U.S., laws that define what constitutes sexual harassment or assault vary from state to state. In many countries, the law is still vague about the definition of assault and sexual harassment. In the U.K., sexual harassment is defined as: “unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which violates your dignity, makes you feel intimidated, degraded or humiliated, and creates a hostile or offensive environment.” The lack of precision surrounding sexual harassment and assault laws prevents us from taking concrete action in the event of a sex-toy hack. Worse yet, we don’t even know whether our data can be hacked into and stolen in the first place.

While the aim of this article isn’t to inspire anxiety and ignite a global wanking paranoia, it should force you to sit back and ask yourself, “What are the privacy implications of using a Bluetooth-connected sex toy?” Last time we ignored such concerns we ended up with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Trump as the President of the U.S., and a moronic Brexit. Even though hacking sex toys isn’t yet defined as assault or sexual harassment, it may very well be regarded so once lawmakers start tackling the issue. In the meantime, maybe it’s worth dusting off the old non-connected sex toy hidden under your bed and relieve the stress with some alone time, if you know what I mean.

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