Tesla workers were sharing private videos filmed by customer vehicles, according to a concerning new report based on insiders.
Tesla vehicles are equipped with arrays of cameras that are primarily used for its Autopilot or Full Self-Driving package, but Tesla has also used the hardware to power new surveillance features like “TeslaCam” and “Sentry Mode,” which are basically integrated dashcam features.
While it’s not that different from any dashcam system, Tesla has run into issues for enabling improper surveillance that could break privacy laws in some jurisdictions.
Now another fear coming from these systems is emerging from a new report from Reuters.
The publication claims to have interviewed nine former Tesla employees who explained that workers would often internally share videos taken from customer vehicles:
But between 2019 and 2022, groups of Tesla employees privately shared via an internal messaging system sometimes highly invasive videos and images recorded by customers’ car cameras, according to interviews by Reuters with nine former employees.
Some former employees reported workers sharing embarrassing videos such as Tesla owners being filmed naked in their cars.
A former employee told the publication:
We could see inside people’s garages and their private properties. Let’s say that a Tesla customer had something in their garage that was distinctive, you know, people would post those kinds of things.
They were also sharing videos of crashes and other incidents, which is more related to their work and why they need to review those videos.
But they were also reportedly using the videos to create memes:
Other images were more mundane, such as pictures of dogs and funny road signs that employees made into memes by embellishing them with amusing captions or commentary, before posting them in private group chats. While some postings were only shared between two employees, others could be seen by scores of them, according to several ex-employees.
Tesla says that the videos it collects from its fleet are all anonymous and can’t be traced back to the owners, but it’s still problematic to share them like that.
Recently, the automaker released a new look at its privacy approach, including how it handles videos from your cars:
|Processed directly on vehicle by default||Shared with Tesla but not associated with your account||Shared with Tesla and associated with your account|
|Sentry Mode camera recordings||✓||N/A||N/A|
|Dashcam camera recordings||✓||N/A||N/A|
|Cabin camera data||✓||If opted in through Data Sharing||If FSD Beta is enabled and safety critical event occurs|
|Autopilot camera recordings||✓||If opted in through Data Sharing||In the occurrence of a safety critical event only|
|Location data||✓||If opted in through Data Sharing||In the occurrence of a safety critical event only|
|Speed||✓||N/A||In the occurrence of a safety critical event only|
|Odometer||✓||For fleet analysis and improvement||Last known value only, for warranty calculation|
|Charging data||✓||If third-party charging network used||If Supercharger network used|
Ultimately, Tesla owners can choose whether or not Tesla can collect videos from its vehicles.