Tesla assures its millions of electric car owners that their privacy is “extremely important to us” and “will always be.” According to its website, the cameras it installs in vehicles to aid driving are “designed from the ground up to protect your privacy.”
However, between 2019 and 2022, groups of Tesla employees privately shared sometimes highly invasive videos and images recorded by customers’ car cameras via an internal messaging system, according to Reuters interviews with nine former employees.
Some of the recordings showed Tesla customers in awkward situations. One ex-employee described a video of a naked man approaching a vehicle.
Crash reports and road rage incidents were also shared. According to another ex-employee, one crash video from 2021 showed a Tesla driving at high speeds in a residential area and colliding with a child riding a bike. The child took off in one direction, while the bike took off in another. The video spread “like wildfire” throughout a Tesla office in San Mateo, California, via private one-on-one chats, according to the ex-employee.
Other images were more mundane, such as photos of dogs and amusing road signs that employees turned into memes by adding amusing captions or commentary before posting them in private group chats. According to several ex-employees, while some postings were only shared between two employees, others were visible to a large number of them.
According to Tesla’s “Customer Privacy Notice” online, “camera recordings remain anonymous and are not linked to you or your vehicle.” However, seven former employees told Reuters that the computer program they used at work could reveal the location of recordings, potentially revealing where a Tesla owner lived.