Tesla staff reportedly shared videos of intimate moments and accidents from customer vehicles

Tesla staff reportedly shared videos of intimate moments and accidents from customer vehicles

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Tesla Inc. employees reportedly have been sharing videos taken for customer cars, including intimate moments and accidents, according to a new report from Reuters.

The report claims that between 2019 and 2022, Tesla employees shared footage from vehicles on internal messaging systems. Tesla vehicles have multiple cameras that are used by the self-driving feature, with the footage also backed up by Tesla for testing analysis, which is how employees have gained access.

The videos shared by employees are said to include one video of a man approaching a vehicle completely naked, along with crashes and road-rage incidents. One video allegedly shows a Tesla driving at high speed in a residential area, hitting a child on a bike, a video that spread “like wildfire” across the Tesla office in San Mateo, California. Other images are said to have included dogs and funny road signs that employees turned into memes before sharing in private group chats.

Notably, of the employees and ex-employees Reuters spoke to, it was also claimed that some of the records were made when cars were parked and turned off. “We could see inside people’s garages and their private properties,” one former employee said. “Let’s say that a Tesla customer had something in their garage that was distinctive; you know, people would post those kinds of things.”

Perhaps with some sense of irony, one video shared by employees gained from a parked Tesla is said to have been the white Lotus Espirit submarine car featured in the James Bond movie “The Spy Who Loved Me.” The vehicle’s owner is Elon Musk and the vehicle was parked in his garage.

On one side of the argument, recording video from parked cars was a feature promoted by Tesla under the name of “Sentry Mode.” The service launched in 2019, the same time Tesla employees started sharing videos, and was pitched as a way to alert drivers of any suspicious activities around their cars. An update in 2021 allowed drivers to use their vehicle’s cameras to livestream their car’s surroundings from the Tesla App.

The Verge reported that Tesla promised that Sentry Mode recordings were not sent to them and the livestream recordings were meant to be end-to-end encrypted and could not be accessed by the company. Given the videos being shared by employees, that’s clearly not true.

That Tesla gathers videos from vehicles is hardly new, but the company promises its customers that privacy “is and will always be enormously important to us” and that the camera on the cars are “designed from the ground up to protect your privacy.” That is also, arguably, an outright lie, given the Reuters report.

Tesla has not responded, but if and when it does, it could argue that the data had legitimate uses and that only a small number of employees breached customer privacy. If that’s its argument, it’s not untrue, but the behavior was going on for years with the videos being shared widely in the company. At some point, Tesla could have and apparently should have stopped the videos being shared.

Photos: Saud Al-Olayan/Flickr, Oast House Archive/Geograph

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