Report: Tesla Employees Inappropriately Shared Videos Recorded by Customer Cars

One ex-worker told Reuters one such clip included "a man approaching a vehicle completely naked"

A person sitting in a Tesla EV at a charging station. According to reporting from Reuters, Tesla employees inappropriately shared images and videos recording by Tesla cars in an internal messaging system.
Do Tesla owners need to be careful what they do around their cars?
Kena Betancur/VIEWpress via Getty

Americans have allowed all types of internet-connected cameras into their homes in the last few decades. The camera on the smartphone or laptop where you’re reading this story right now, the camera in the video doorbell next to your front door, the camera in the baby monitor in your nursery. By allowing this tech into our homes, there’s also the assumption of privacy — that no one is snooping on us through these devices. 

But according to an alarming new report from Reuters, if you own a vehicle made by Tesla, some people have been able to snoop through the car’s cameras: the company’s own employees. While Tesla owners are told in fine print that data shared with the automaker will include “short video clips or images” — which will be used in a professional capacity to better the car’s tech — former Tesla employees told Reuters that the company had a culture of sharing “sometimes highly invasive” recordings in an internal messaging system. 

Far from being used in a professional context, these private recordings of Tesla owners, their family and friends were reportedly “made into memes,” shared in small and large group chats, and used as fodder for water cooler conversation around the office. 

While those who drive Tesla’s cutting-edge electric vehicles may expect the company to capture and track crash data and information about the driving experience in order to better the company’s driver-assistance software, as the eight exterior cameras are part of the so-called Autopilot system, the clips shared inappropriately among employees ran the gamut from people being intimate to people tripping and falling to “a man approaching a vehicle completely naked.”

Sharing these kinds of recordings is a blatant violation of privacy in and of itself, but Reuters also reported that the clips weren’t completely anonymous, as Tesla promised. “[S]even former employees told Reuters the computer program they used at work could show the location of recordings – which potentially could reveal where a Tesla owner lived.”

“It was a breach of privacy, to be honest,” one ex-employee told Reuters. “And I always joked that I would never buy a Tesla after seeing how they treated some of these people.”

For the story, more than a dozen former Tesla employees agreed to answer questions from Reuters anonymously. As such, the reporting found that this practice continued from 2019 to 2022, but because no current employees were interviewed, it’s unclear if this practice is still ongoing today. 

As has been normal for Tesla since 2020 when CEO Elon Musk decided to scrap the company’s PR department and become a one-man PR team himself, no one from the company commented.

Tesla is already under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for potential issues with its Autopilot system. Now, there’s the possibility the company could face repercussions from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for this blatant disregard for consumer privacy. 

Thankfully, it appears Elon Musk is taking this all very seriously. Oh wait, he’s still preoccupied with sharing repulsive memes — reportedly just like his employees.

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