Tesla staff reportedly shared videos recorded by customer cars

7 Apr 2023

Image: © Anselm/Stock.adobe.com

Nine former Tesla staff claim invasive content taken from Tesla vehicle cameras was shared within an internal messaging system for years.

A group of former Tesla employees claim that staff would share videos and images recorded by customers’ in-car cameras, according to a Reuters report.

These nine former employees claim that the videos and photos were shared within an internal messaging system between 2019 and 2022.

The content was allegedly taken from the various cameras Tesla vehicles have to enable self-driving features, with the former employees being involved in developing this self-driving system.

These sources also claim the content would sometimes contain invasive and intimate videos and images. Examples of this content includes a car crashing into a child and a man approaching one vehicle while naked.

One former employee claimed some recordings were made when the car appeared to be turned off and parked, while another claimed they could see “inside people’s garages and their private properties”.

Tesla vehicles have a Sentry Mode feature which lets the vehicle film around itself to prevent theft and vandalism. Recently, the company made the settings more “privacy-friendly” following an investigation by a data watchdog in the Netherlands.

Reuters was unable to obtain any of the shared content, while some former employees said they only observed content sharing for legitimate work purposes. The media organisation said more than a dozen former Tesla employees had agreed to answer questions.

Some of the employees had different views on the morality behind these actions, as some felt it was a breach of privacy while others claimed customers had given their consent.

The EV company’s Customer Privacy Notice says that if a customer enables data sharing, their vehicle “may collect the data and make it available to Tesla for analysis”. Tesla has not responded to a request for comment at time of publishing.

Privacy concerns

There have been privacy and security concerns raised in the past regarding Tesla’s vehicles and the cameras they have equipped.

In 2021, Tesla CEO Elon Musk publicly denied allegations that the company’s cars could be used for spying.

This followed reports that the Chinese government was restricting the use of Tesla vehicles by military staff and some state-owned companies, due to concerns around the tech in these vehicles.

In January last year, a young hacker claimed he found a way to take partial control of more than 25 Tesla cars in 13 countries. David Colombo claimed he could remotely disable the sentry mode protection on these vehicles, open windows and doors, control the music and the vehicle lights, and start keyless driving.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic