Tesla spy on motorists and pedestrians under Swiss law

Tesla’s electric cars are accused of spying on motorists. According to a survey carried out in Switzerland, the vehicles of the American brand regularly transmit the sequences filmed by its numerous cameras at Tesla’s headquarters in the United States. This practice is contrary to the data protection law in Switzerland.

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With the help of researchers from the Bern University of Applied Sciences, our Swiss colleagues from Der Bund investigated the way in which Tesla’s electric cars collect data from their owners. The vehicles developed by the firm of Elon Musk are real data magnets. Cars are indeed full of sensors of all kinds and cameras.

Moreover, the article mainly points the finger at the recordings made from 8 external car cameras, supplemented by twelve ultrasonic sensors and a radar. These cameras offer a range of up to 250 meters and allow the car to spot signs, traffic lights and other road users. This data is essential for the proper functioning of the Autopilot automatic pilot.

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Tesla films pedestrians and breaks Swiss law

Ultimately, Tesla cars spy on their environment and film other motorists, including pedestrians. This is particularly the case when “Sentinel” mode is activated. In its terms of use, Tesla does not hide the fact that this information is sometimes transmitted to its headquarters in the United States for analysis. Unfortunately, the collection of these data is not authorized by the legislation in force in Switzerland. The law of the Swiss Confederation indeed prohibits filming users of public roads (pedestrians and motorists) without their knowledge.

De facto, the regulations recommend disable cameras on Swiss roads. “We advise drivers who want to play it safe and not risk breaking data protection law not to activate this function, at least in public spaces” recommends a spokesperson for the Swiss government.

This is all the more problematic as disabling data sharing risksprevent deployment of future software updates. The American firm recommends not to oppose the transfer, under penalty of meeting “Serious damage or inability to function”. For the moment, it seems that the laws in force in the rest of Europe do not impose similar limitations.

Source: Der Bund