Some former Tesla workers they admitted to having used video recorded by car cameras of customers to create memes and share them. Beyond the damage to privacy, the insult. Reuters reports that employees report it was common to share private videos of drivers with each other, to alleviate boredom and make colleagues laugh.
Tesla employees shared videos of users’ cars
Tesla places several cameras inside and outside its cars. They allow you to analyze the situation and offer smart functionality such as Autopilot and other assisted driving software. But they also serve to protect users against theft or accidents by recording when someone gets too close to the car. Something that has raised several doubts about privacy, which however Tesla has always rejected. The assisted driving cameras are described on the site as “designed from the ground up to protect your privacy.”
But what ex-Tesla employees report – who worked in Elon Musk’s company from 2019 to 2022 – heard by Reuters is something diametrically opposite.
“When you found something curious that made an impression, you posted it, and then later, on a break, people would come up to you and say: I saw what you posted. It was funny,” a former employee told the newspaper. “The people who have been promoted to positions of responsibility were the ones who shared the most funny things and they had a reputation for being nice.”
Without cameras Tesla loses many functions. But privacy?
Once arrived at the Tesla headquarters, it seems that a certain category of Tesla workers, called “data labeler”has the task of watch these videos inside the car. Labelers watch them for help the company’s artificial intelligence systems better recognize certain objects and actions. But labelers didn’t just passively watch customer videos. To “break up the monotony,” as one former worker put it, they even made memes to share with their colleagues.
What kind of videos did Tesla employees share from cars
When Reuters asked former employees which videos became memes, the response varied. For example, there were videos of “dogs, interesting cars, or people tripping while walking near the Tesla cameras.”
One of the most famous videos was of a guy going to get his car completely naked. Another was that of a child being thrown off his bike by a car. And then there were also the videos of the accidents and collisions. Sometimes we also saw curious or embarrassing things in customers’ garages, or outbursts of anger in the middle of the road.
In an office in San Mateo, there was a real craze for these videos. Employees shared them effortlessly and Photoshopped them into funny memes. It was like a competition to see who could find the craziest video.
The privacy issue
“The people who buy the car, I don’t think they know that their privacy is not respected. We could see them doing laundry and very intimate stuff. We could see their children,” explains an employee.
Another former employee admits: “It was an invasion of privacy, to be honest. And I’ve always joked that I would never buy a Tesla after seeing how they treated some of these people.” Certainly not a vote of confidence for the company he worked for.
Privacy concerns about Tesla cars and its videos aren’t new. In 2021, the Chinese government has formally banned vehicles on the premises of some military installations, calling the company a threat to “national security.” Even if he had done it out of fear of American espionage, not thinking that the worst risk was to become a meme.
Reuters notes that it ultimately was “unable to determine whether the practice of sharing records, which occurred in parts of Tesla until last year, continues today or how widespread it was.”
Tesla has not yet responded to the Reuters report, but we will keep you updated.