Why Tesla’s in-car monitoring camera is a major privacy risk


A U.S. consumer advice magazine is raising new concerns about how electric car maker Tesla is using cameras on its vehicles. This time, it is not the surveillance camera of the driver and passengers (in the cabin) that is in the spotlight.

The concerns stem from the fact that Tesla is using a conventional video camera, rather than infrared alternatives used by other automakers (but more on that later).

“Anytime a video is recorded, it can be viewed later,” John Davisson, senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Clearinghouse, told Consumer Reports.

“There may be legal protections as to who can access it and how, but there is always the possibility that insurance companies, police, regulators and other parties in the event of an accident can obtain this data.”

The in-cab camera is located in the rearview mirror on both Model 3 and Model Y. It is off by default, but if on, it will capture and share video clips of moments before a crash or when automatic braking is engaged.

Elon Musk previously said the camera is there when Teslas is fully self-sufficient and takes passengers on cab rides. But we know it’s far, far away, so it feels a bit premature.

So that begs the question of what Tesla might do with this data if one of its cars is involved in an accident.

Suppose the driver is on autopilot at this time and is on their phone rather than looking at the road. Will Tesla use the video to prove the driver was not paying attention and therefore his autopilot system was not at fault? Your guess is as good as mine.

Other automakers have on-board cameras to monitor drivers, so what about their systems?

Good question. This is because other brands of cars use devices to monitor drivers to make sure they are paying attention to the road.

However, these systems use infrared cameras and do not record any video. They operate in real time and do not store any data.

While Tesla’s camera is aimed at the driver and their passengers, it is not a true driver surveillance system. Rather, it appears to be a surveillance or evidence-gathering tool, rather than a security feature.

The only driver monitoring system present in Tesla vehicles is the torque sensor on the steering wheel, which was once hacked with an orange.

Tesla has previously criticized drivers for not paying attention to the road, when vehicles crashed with autopilot engaged.

It’s not a big step to assume that Tesla would use video footage to compensate itself for liability when such incidents occur.

And we haven’t even considered the idea of ​​someone hacking into the remote camera to spy on you while you’re driving. It might be worth putting some tape on this little lens for now.

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Published March 24, 2021 – 13:37 UTC


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