The Sextech Event: innuendo not included

September 4, 2017

A couple of issues ago readers of Computers & Law may have been forgiven for thinking they had received the wrong magazine.

Cover of Computers & Law April 2017 featuring sextechA provocatively sleazy front cover heralded publication of Neil Brown’s article, Sextech: Sticky Legal Issues. Although it failed to ‘break the Internet’ (just), the interest was such that we have lined up an event in October to delve deeper into this nascent industry.

Of course it would be all too easy to play this for laughs. I am refraining from the use of innuendo as I write. So while the thought of the Internet of Dongs (as one commentator calls it) may or may not appeal, the issues surrounding the security of any data collected, the privacy of the user when processing that data and even the possibility of remote sexual assault if that data or the device is compromised are all too real and present now. And on the basis that the rapid development and commercialisation of the web can in part be attributed to the porn industry, then it is likely that Sextech manufacturers are in the vanguard of such developments, the canary in the coalmine so to speak. The lessons we learn from their mistakes will serve other industries and the legislators in good stead.

You can get a good idea of what these issues are, and how they could become commonplace, by reading NeiI’s article, his book review of Queer Privacy and a piece recently published on Engadget by Daniel Cooper, who we hope will be involved on the day. 

Daniel’s main point is that the law is perhaps not ready for Sextech. Speaking with Dr Kate Devlin, Sarah Jamie Lewis and Neil, all of whom will be speaking, Daniel reviews the ‘war stories’ that have already emerged in the formative years of the industry. 

The security scare involving Svakom, who make sex toys mounted with a camera for instance. Can they be hacked or not? If so to what effect? The perils and liabilities associated with hacking do not get much more personal than this.

Or the well publicised fine handed down to the makers of the We-Vibe vibrator who stored sensitive personal data relating to how buyers used the product without the proper consents. How such firms will ever obtain consent in the future will be interesting.

He also considers whether those currently found guilty of “sextortion’ get more lenient sentences than those found guilty of similar physical world crimes.

These examples are admittedly founded in US law, a reflection of Engadget’s core readership I suspect, but his concluding paragraph seems to me capable of making the trans-Atlantic crossing:

“We cannot, and should not, blindly trust manufacturers to be eternally vigilant about threats against us. …….. We must also accept that, inevitably, this theoretical issue will become a practical one. As a consequence, we should urge our lawmakers to develop a proper [federal] framework to ensure that those who commit crimes are punished for it, and as few people suffer as possible.”

Amen to that.

Sextech, Porn and the Law is on 10 October at the HQ of Oath UK, Shropshire House, 11-20 Capper Street, London, WC1E 6JA. Read more and reserve your place here