Ex-Tesla Workers Say Staff Shared Private Customer Footage

Ex-Tesla employees shared egregious abuse of private information. Credit: Getty Images

A new report purports to expose Tesla’s company culture of sharing private videos and images for employees’ enjoyment.

Reuters(Opens in a new tab) interviewed nine anonymous former employees who said video footage and images captured by Tesla cameras were widely shared by employees through Tesla’s messaging platform from 2019 to 2022. This included visuals of people’s garages and even footage of a speeding Tesla hitting a child on a bike, which spread “like wildfire” said one former employee.

“We could see them doing laundry and really intimate things. We could see their kids,” said another ex-employee. Scenes from inside garages included, “scenes of intimacy” and “certain pieces of laundry, certain sexual wellness items…and just private scenes of life that we really were privy to because the car was charging,” said the Reuters report.

Employees who had access to camera footage were known as labelers, whose job it was to train Tesla’s artificial intelligence system to recognize objects and pedestrians. In the San Mateo office, sharing footage and memes made from footage earned you cool points. “People who got promoted to lead positions shared a lot of these funny items and gained notoriety for being funny,” said a former labeler.

Tesla’s privacy policy(Opens in a new tab) says that its autopilot-equipped cars, which have eight cameras, were designed to protect user privacy. The purpose of a Tesla’s cameras is to assist with self-driving features like Autopilot and Autopark. It also uses this data to improve its fleet of cars, and communicate with owner about safety information. “No one but you would have knowledge of your activities, location or a history of where you’ve been.”

But as former employees pointed out, camera footage that may reveal street signs or landmarks can give context clues about the driver’s location.

The privacy policy also doesn’t address how employees or contractors handle sensitive data, let alone the notion that employees may use private data for memes, entertainment, or career advancement.

Cecily is a tech reporter at Mashable who covers AI, Apple, and emerging tech trends. Before getting her master’s degree at Columbia Journalism School, she spent several years working with startups and social impact businesses for Unreasonable Group and B Lab. Before that, she co-founded a startup consulting business for emerging entrepreneurial hubs in South America, Europe, and Asia. You can find her on Twitter at @cecily_mauran(Opens in a new tab).

By signing up to the Mashable newsletter you agree to receive electronic communications from Mashable that may sometimes include advertisements or sponsored content.