Tesla News: Senate Democrats call out Elon Musk after employees shared customers’ vehicle vids

April 15, 2023

Tesla has been in hot water recently after it was revealed that the supposedly private vehicle recordings were shared by employees within company group chats. After the issue was uncovered by Reuters, two Senate Democrats – Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) — wrote Tesla CEO Elon Musk a letter detailing the issue and asked a series of questions that should clarify the matter.

The issue was reported by Reuters on April 6, saying different customer vehicle videos were shared by employees in the company’s internal messaging groups. The videos reportedly varied from car accidents hitting a child, car crashes, road rages, and more. Interestingly, the company promotes the cameras as “designed from the ground up to protect your privacy.” Ex-employees interviewed by Reuters opposed this, revealing that sensitive details like address could be actually viewed in the footage and that some recordings were seemingly taken while the vehicles were turned off, giving them an inside view of the customer’s garage and private properties. One former employee shared they even saw “really intimate things.”

Due to the “deeply misleading” privacy impressions Tesla is trying to push to its customers, Markey and Blumenthal sent Musk a letter. The senators stressed that while the cameras are there to aid the safety usage of the vehicles, they “do not need to come at the expense of consumer privacy.” The letter also cited a handful of Tesla’s privacy claims and policies, underlining how they are opposite of what the company is actually doing with customers’ data.

“This apparent willful disregard for the privacy of Tesla customers is unacceptable and raises serious questions about Tesla’smanagement practices,” the letter reads. “We urge you to take all necessary actions to ensure that any images or videos consensually collected from Tesla vehicles are subject to strict privacy safeguards….”

In line with this, the two senators provided the Tesla CEO with a set of questions that should be answered by May 5. Some of the queries are about the purpose of vehicle recordings and how they are stored. The senators also asked about access restrictions and whether Tesla executives are aware of the recent privacy issue and why it was not prevented.

The issue raised in the letter might not surprise Musk anymore, given the past conflicts of the Tesla company with Senate Democrats and the Biden administration. Nonetheless, it is still a thing that the EV company should handle carefully, with privacy always being one of the most fragile topics in many industries.

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