Just imagine: while you’re sorting your groceries in a supermarket parking lot, a Tesla is standing nearby, filming you. After all, the person under consideration can be a potential danger. The car reacts to this. For this purpose, it is equipped with several cameras and intelligence systems. This is not something special with electric cars. Several manufacturers install cameras that capture the entire area around the vehicle. Tesla has eight cameras.
In addition to the classic alarm system, there is a so-called “guardian mode” in the Tesla model. It is intended to protect the vehicle from vandalism, theft and theft while it is parked by creating a video. If people approach the car or if there is a vibration, the system saves the last ten minutes until the triggering event as a video on a USB stick in the car. According to Tesla, the video files have not been sent to the company’s headquarters in the USA.
Privacy advocates criticize Tesla’s “guardian status.”
For Andreas Sachs, Vice President of the Bavarian State Office for Data Protection Management, this work is problematic in terms of data protection law. In general, there is nothing against the alarm system, he says to BR24.
But it becomes difficult when the artificial intelligence in the car decides whether there is a threat or not: “In our tests we found that an ordinary pedestrian who just passes behind the car is recognized very often as a situation of such a threat that is classified and recorded. It is a big problem , it shouldn’t be like that.” Tesla has not yet responded to a request from BR24 regarding the recording function.
Vehicle owners may also be prosecuted
But it’s not just Tesla running into data protection problems as a result. Sachs stressed in an interview that car owners would only be violating data protection if they used this feature. Using a USB stick provided by Tesla, the data would be saved.
So he says: “We would clearly recommend that you turn off this protection mode in a supermarket car park, for example, or at a charging station, or at least not have a USB stick in it.”
Tesla photos helped law enforcement
But especially the “caretaker situation” a month ago helped uncover a criminal offense in Munich. Police found photos of the suspects – from a parked Tesla.
An old woman was robbed by artists. After the criminals left the apartment, they passed by the Tesla. As the two men passed, the car took a picture. The police were able to find the owner of the car and identify the two people who allegedly committed the crime from the video recordings.
The privacy breach is now under review
The extent to which performance and recording in Tesla vehicles violates data protection guidelines is currently under investigation. First in the Bavarian State Office for Data Protection Management and soon in Berlin – because Tesla wants to move its location here. The relevant authorities in the Netherlands are also looking at the same time. Tesla EU branch is there.