Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Tesla sued by car owner for privacy intrusion


Tesla Faces Class Action Lawsuit for Alleged Privacy Violations

A prospective class action lawsuit has been filed against Tesla in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, accusing the electric carmaker of violating the privacy of its customers. The lawsuit was filed by a California-based owner of a Tesla vehicle, Henry Yeh, who alleged that groups of Tesla employees privately shared highly invasive videos and images recorded by customers’ car cameras between 2019 and 2022.

According to Yeh’s complaint, Tesla employees were able to access the images and videos for their “tasteless and tortious entertainment” and “the humiliation of those surreptitiously recorded”. The lawsuit said Tesla’s conduct is “particularly egregious” and “highly offensive”. Yeh is filing the complaint “against Tesla on behalf of himself, similarly situated class members, and the general public”. The prospective class would include individuals who owned or leased a Tesla within the past four years.

The lawsuit came after reports on Thursday that some Tesla employees privately shared videos and images recorded by vehicle cameras via an internal messaging system. An unnamed former employee told Reuters news agency that some Tesla employees could see customers “doing laundry and really intimate things. We could see their kids”.

“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,” said Jack Fitzgerald, a lawyer representing Yeh. “Tesla needs to be held accountable for these invasions and for misrepresenting its lax privacy practices to him and other Tesla owners.”

The complaint asked the court “to enjoin Tesla from engaging in its wrongful behavior, including violating the privacy of customers and others, and to recover actual and punitive damages”. There was no immediate response from Tesla.

The lawsuit highlighted that parents’ interest in their children’s privacy is one of the most fundamental liberty interests society recognises. It also alleged that Tesla misrepresents its privacy practices to its customers.

The case is a reminder of the importance of privacy protection in the era of connected cars. As vehicles become more connected and autonomous, they collect and transmit a vast amount of data, including personal information about drivers and passengers. This data can be used for various purposes, such as improving safety and convenience, but it also raises concerns about privacy and security.

Automakers and technology companies need to ensure that they have robust privacy policies and practices in place to protect their customers’ privacy. They should also be transparent about how they collect, use, and share personal information, and give customers meaningful choices and control over their data. Failure to do so can result in legal and reputational risks, as well as loss of customer trust and loyalty.

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