Lawsuit Accuses Tesla of ‘Tasteless’ Sentry Mode Video Sharing Without Consent

The lawsuit aims to find other owners angry about Tesla employees sharing videos and pictures of them.

byAaron Cole|
Electric Vehicles photo
Rob Stumpf

Not long after a troubling report that Tesla employees were sharing videos and pictures of unsuspecting owners captured by their cars, the inevitable lawsuit arrived. Reuters reported Monday that a Tesla owner is suing the automaker for "tasteless and tortious entertainment” by sharing owners’ videos. The lawsuit, filed by Henry Yeh in a Northern California court, seeks class-action status with other owners. 

Last week, Reuters reported that Tesla employees may have shared potentially embarrassing videos and pictures of owners without their consent. The revelation raised eyebrows from watchdogs and regulators in Europe, where Tesla has already been taken to task for potentially illegally recording passersby without their consent. 

The news was especially damning for Tesla in the U.S. because nine ex-employees reported the widespread sharing of videos that included a potentially naked man, a child getting hit by a Tesla car, and someone getting pulled into a vehicle against their consent. In the lawsuit, Yeh alleges that the videos and pictures may have spread outside the company: “And as is common with internet culture, many of these videos and images were very likely shared with persons outside the company,” the complaint alleges. 

The lawsuit also alleges that videos or pictures from owners’ cars could be paired with location data from the vehicles that could potentially identify them. The only way to fix it, according to the complaint, is to get rid of the cameras: “Given Tesla’s defective system for maintaining the privacy of video and images captured by Tesla cameras, the only surefire fix to Tesla’s invasion of privacy is to disable the cameras.” Such a ruling would potentially cripple Tesla, whose CEO Elon Musk has often said the automaker’s driver-assistance software, Autopilot, and its cloud-based network was incredibly valuable to the automaker. 

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