Tesla is facing a prospective class-action lawsuit over accusations the company’s employees violated the privacy of their customers by sharing videos and images from Tesla car cameras.
The lawsuit was filed last week, a day after Reuters reported that Tesla employees would privately share on the company’s messaging systems what were sometimes highly invasive videos and images recorded by customers’ car cameras between 2019 and 2022.
Henry Yeh, a San Francisco resident who owns a Tesla Model Y, alleges in the suit that Tesla employees violated customers’ privacy by accessing and sharing the images and videos for their “tasteless and tortious entertainment,” which resulted in “the humiliation of those surreptitiously recorded.” The suit says Tesla’s conduct is “particularly egregious” and “highly offensive.”
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Yeh filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District Court of California, and the prospective class would include people who owned or leased a Tesla in the last four years.
His attorney, Scott Fitzgerald, told Reuters, “Like anyone would be, Mr. Yeh was outraged at the idea that Tesla’s cameras can be used to violate his family’s privacy, which the California Constitution scrupulously protects. Tesla needs to be held accountable for these invasions and for misrepresenting its lax privacy practices to him and other Tesla owners.”
The Reuters original report was based on interviews with multiple anonymous former employees of the carmaker.
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One ex-Tesla employee told the outlet that a video of a naked man approaching a vehicle was shared. Another said a video was shared of a Tesla driving at a high speed in a residential neighborhood before hitting a child riding a bike.
A former employee said Tesla employees were able to see customers “doing laundry and really intimate things. We could see their kids.”
Other images were pictures of dogs and funny road signs that were turned into memes. Some of the videos were only shared between two employees in direct messages, while others could be seen more widely.
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Seven former employees told Reuters that the computer program they used at work could show location data from recordings and potentially reveal where a Tesla owner lived.
Tesla’s online “Customer Privacy Notice” states that its “camera recordings remain anonymous and are not linked to you or your vehicle.”
Another former employee said some recordings seemed to have been made when cars were parked and turned off. Several years ago, Tesla could receive videos from cars even when the vehicles were turned off if owners consented, a practice the company has since halted.
As part of its development of self-driving car technologies, Tesla collects a massive amount of data from its worldwide fleet of several million vehicles and their cameras.
Tesla did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
Reuters contributed to this report.