Tesla's Cameras

Tesla’s Cameras Are Reportedly Spying on Customers, But It’s Not Just a Tesla Problem

Are Tesla’s customers being watched? According to a recent Reuters report, at least some of its workers were. Several ex-Tesla employees claimed to have viewed video from the multitude of cameras the company’s vehicles are equipped with between 2019 and 2022. The employees claimed they shared private videos on an internal messaging system, including footage of a car hitting a child, a man approaching a car while naked, and the interiors of people’s garages. The pictures were de-identified, but some of them contained enough information to reveal which car they came from or had location information attached to them.

While the news may initially seem shocking, it actually illustrates a challenging but constant reality. Future automobiles will undoubtedly have more cameras than current models, which are already completely covered in cameras. Sometimes it’s not obvious if and how this video is protected. Even though the Reuters article specifically mentions Tesla, not only Tesla owners run the risk of these kinds of privacy invasions.

Before you assume that your car manufacturer is spying on you and that its staff is disseminating videos of you singing awkwardly along to the radio, take into account a few caveats.

According to a Reuters report, the staff members who watched and distributed videos were members of a group tasked with reviewing the material to improve Tesla’s self-driving capabilities, such as by assisting it in identifying specific objects or street signs. It’s common practice for intelligent assistants like Amazon’s Alexa to have human reviewers listen to user audio in order to improve their offerings. (Depending on the business, you can usually choose not to participate or you must.) Reuters reported that Tesla obtained drivers’ permission to view that footage for these purposes. Requests for comment to confirm or elaborate on the report were not answered by Tesla.

However, it is claimed that the Tesla staff members went above and beyond the call of duty by selecting amusing and interesting videos and disseminating them for their own amusement. That’s not adding value to a product, and Tesla owners most certainly didn’t intend for them to agree to that.

But when we exchange our old cars for new ones, it is an illustration of how we compromise our privacy for convenience. They are becoming increasingly crammed not only with cameras but also with connected infotainment systems, voice assistants, and telemetrics that gather a ton of data from hundreds or even thousands of data points. These can offer features that customers desire, or they can collect data that can be used to improve the products. Or it might be passed around and ridiculed, or it might be sold off to the highest bidder. Sometimes you are unaware of this or have no control over it. But sometimes you do.

Additionally, finding a car without cameras in it is getting increasingly difficult. According to a federal law, all new cars sold in the US after 2018 must have backup cameras. The majority of the time, these cameras don’t record or transmit video. Other cameras do, such as internal cameras used frequently by ride-hailing drivers for their own safety or dashcams, which are growing in popularity. Cameras can be a highly desired feature that enhances security and safety and makes some semi-autonomous and self-driving capabilities possible. Even Amazon’s Ring cameras come in a special car model, so you can now have a Ring camera on your doorstep, in your child’s bedroom, and even on your dashboard.

With up to 25 gigabytes of data being collected every hour, our cars are becoming more and more computerized and connected. It may be challenging, if not impossible, to prevent them from sending that data to data brokers. And there’s always a chance that hackers could get their hands on this information. As always, you are depending on another person to safeguard your data and uphold your privacy.

However, there are also benefits. Customers who drive safely—as determined by apps or other devices that drivers install in their vehicles to track them—often receive discounts from insurance companies. Informational systems in connected vehicles are continually improving. And you might be relieved that your car has a camera if the footage shows that you weren’t at fault for an accident. The goal of the federal backup camera requirement was to stop accidents like running over a child who wouldn’t otherwise be seen.

There are a few options available if the thought of Tesla employees making memes from footage taken from your car bothers you. Don’t buy a Tesla might be one, but since many other cars have these cameras, that probably won’t be enough. You can always choose not to have your data gathered or video sent to human reviewers if you have the option. And before installing a dashboard camera, decide whether its potential benefits outweigh any drawbacks. You may very well believe that it does, but you should have the choice to decide after doing your research. Additionally, the business that receives the camera data from your car ought to be much better at safeguarding your private data than Tesla apparently was.

The potential good news in this situation is that the Federal Trade Commission and other regulators are motivated to take action when they can by reports like this one. The FTC has pursued companies found to have violated consumers’ privacy when it can, such as if a company lies in its privacy policies, despite the fact that federal data privacy laws aren’t great—almost nonexistent, in fact—and are rarely enforced. Tesla’s privacy policy, by the way, says users are “in the driver’s seat, even when it comes to your data.”

Also Read: Can Security Cameras See Inside Cars?

Source: vox

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