Hybrids & Electrics

Is Your Tesla Spying on You? Consumer Reports Says It Could Be

If you’ve got a Tesla Model 3 or Model Y, then you’re likely aware of your car’s handy camera system. In sentry mode, the EV’s eight cameras provide a unique view into what happens to your car once it’s parked. However, one of these cameras lives inside of the cabin, and it’s always rolling.

According to Consumer Reports, the automaker utilizes this in-cabin camera to recover pre-crash footage or moments when the car’s automated brakes engage. As Consumer Reports points out, this means that the automaker has access to footage recorded anytime you’re inside of your car.

How can your Tesla spy on you?

2021 Tesla Model S driving during sunset
2021 Tesla Model S | Tesla

Tesla is by no means the only automaker to utilize driver monitoring systems. According to Consumer Reports, most automakers utilize a closed-loop system. In short, this means that these systems cannot record, save, or transmit data or video back to the automaker.

Additionally, most automakers don’t rely on cameras for their driver monitoring systems. Instead, they use infrared technology took to keep track of your eye movements and head position.

In contrast, Tesla relies on a cabin camera that records video constantly. According to Consumer Reports, the EV carmaker stated that it utilizes these video clips to develop its “self-driving” technology. However, since these clips are readily available and sharable, it raises major privacy concerns.

It is worth noting that Tesla has publicly stated it will study footage from beta testers of its new “self-driving” system. However, just the fact that the automaker has this kind of access is a red flag. In fact, Aljazeera reports that the Chinese military banned these cars due to camera and sensor spying concerns.

What did Consumer Reports find?

An image of a Tesla Model Y out on a race track.
Tesla Model Y | Tesla

RELATED: Tesla Full Self-Driving Beta Is Surprisingly Sketchy Driving Across This City

John Davisson, senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, spoke with Consumer Reports about this Tesla story’s long-term implications.

“There may be legal protections around who can access it and how, but there‚Äôs always the possibility that insurance companies, police, regulators, and other parties in accidents will be able to obtain that data,”

John Davisson via Consumer Reports

Aside from having Tesla view your in-car footage, Consumer Reports warns that people with ill-intent could potentially hack into your vehicle and have access to this stored footage. Furthermore, Davisson argues that the carmaker could at one point decide to use this footage for more than just monitoring “self-driving” beta testers.

Should you worry about this issue?

An image of a Tesla Model Y out on a race track.
Tesla Model Y | Tesla

As of writing, it isn’t time to sound the alarm and jump ship just yet. This is because Tesla stresses it is only gathering footage from beta testers. The goal is to monitor whether or not a beta tester is paying attention while using the company’s latest driver-assist system. This is so the information recorded from the beta test isn’t tarnished by a distracted driver.

However, as noted before, this system can gather footage from any Model 3 or Model Y if activated. As a result, we’ll have to wait and see how the carmaker decides to use this capability.