Just because a company — like, say, Tesla — promises that your privacy "is and will always be enormously important to us," doesn't mean your privacy is important to them. Nor does it mean your privacy will be protected. Where there's a camera, there's a way — to invade your privacy, that is.
And that's what's been happening at Tesla, according to Reuters, who reports that from 2019–2022, employees had fun sharing private footage — from the dramatic (such as car chases) to the embarrassing (such as a man appearing without any clothes on) to the silly (mundane but meme-worthy) — recorded by Tesla cameras built into customers' cars.
"It was a breach of privacy, to be honest. And I always joked that I would never buy a Tesla after seeing how they treated some of these people," one of the 300 former employees interviewed by Reuters said.
"I'm bothered by it because the people who buy the car, I don't think they know that their privacy is, like, not respected … We could see them doing laundry and really intimate things. We could see their kids," another said.
But between 2019 and 2022, groups of Tesla employees privately shared via an internal messaging system sometimes highly invasive videos and images recorded by customers' car cameras, according to interviews by Reuters with nine former employees.
Some of the recordings caught Tesla customers in embarrassing situations. One ex-employee described a video of a man approaching a vehicle completely naked.
Also shared: crashes and road-rage incidents. One crash video in 2021 showed a Tesla driving at high speed in a residential area hitting a child riding a bike, according to another ex-employee. The child flew in one direction, the bike in another. The video spread around a Tesla office in San Mateo, California, via private one-on-one chats, "like wildfire," the ex-employee said.
Tesla states in its online "Customer Privacy Notice" that its "camera recordings remain anonymous and are not linked to you or your vehicle." But seven 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.
"We could see inside people's garages and their private properties," said another former employee. "Let's say that a Tesla customer had something in their garage that was distinctive, you know, people would post those kinds of things."
Tesla didn't respond to detailed questions sent to the company for this report.