Are Tesla’s Cameras a Threat To Our Privacy?

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Are Tesla’s Cameras a Threat To Our Privacy? (



from the cameras-on-wheels dept.

“I love that my car recorded a hit-and-run on my behalf,” writes a technology columnist at the Washington Post. “Yet I’m scared we’re not ready for the ways cameras pointed inside and outside vehicles will change the open road…”

Long-time Slashdot reader Strudelkugel shared the Post’s report:
It’s not just crashes that will be different. Once governments, companies and parents get their hands on car video, it could become evidence, an insurance liability and even a form of control… [I]t’s not just the bad guys my car records. I’ve got clips of countless people’s behinds scooching by in tight parking lots, because Sentry Mode activates any time something gets close. It’s also recording my family: With another function called Dash Cam that records the road, Tesla has saved hours and hours of my travels — the good driving and the not-so-good alike.

We’ve been down this road before with connected cameras. Amazon’s Ring doorbells and Nest cams also seemed like a good idea, until hackers, stalkers and police tried to get their hands on the video feed… Applied to a car, the questions multiply: Can you just peer in on your teen driver — or spouse? Do I have to share my footage with the authorities? Should my car be allowed to kick me off the road if it thinks I’m sleepy? How long until insurance companies offer “discounts” for direct video access? And is any of this actually making cars safer or less expensive to own? Your data can and will be used against you. Can we do anything to make our cars remain private spaces…?

Their design choices may well determine our future privacy. It’s important to remember: Automakers can change how their cameras work with as little as a software update. Sentry mode arrived out of thin air last year on cars made as early as 2017… Tesla is already recording gobs. Living in a dense city, my Sentry Mode starts recording between five and seven times per day — capturing lots of people, the vast majority of whom are not committing any crime. (This actually drains the car’s precious battery. Some owners estimate it sips about a mile’s worth of the car’s 322-mile potential range for every hour it runs.) Same with the Dash Cam that runs while I’m on the road: It’s recording not just my driving, but all the other cars and people on the road, too. The recordings stick around on a memory card until you delete them or the card fills up, and it writes over the old footage… Now imagine what Google or Facebook might want to do with that data on everywhere you drive…

Without Sentry Mode, I wouldn’t have known what hit me. The city’s response to my hit-and-run report was that it didn’t even need my video file. Officials had evidence of their own: That bus had cameras running, too.

“Thank You St. Tesla,” jokes Slashdot reader DenverTech, linking to a story in which a Tesla owner shared the video it recorded of another car struck in a hit-and-run accident in the parking lot of a Colorado Olive Garden. “It just makes me really thankful that there are cars out there, that can prove what happened so justice can happen,” that car’s owner told a local news station — though the Tesla owner had also already written down the license number of the truck which struck her vehicle.

The news station also links to another story in which a man accused of dragging a knife across a parked Tesla “was also captured on the vehicle’s built-in camera.”

Honesty pays, but it doesn’t seem to pay enough to suit some people.
— F.M. Hubbard


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