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Consumer Reports is worried about how Tesla handles in-car video footage

The love/hate relationship continues.

tesla car visualizing full-self driving autopilot
Image: Tesla

Tesla is in hot water (again) with Consumer Reports, this time over how the carmaker handles footage shot by the in-car cameras. The point of contention? That some recorded footage of the car’s occupants is studied “after the fact as part of its research into self-driving technology.” That’s a big privacy issue since Tesla can’t be sure that the passengers have consented to be recorded.

Consumer Reports says that the way Tesla handles footage from its in-car cameras is in stark contrast to the rest of the industry. The driver monitoring systems used by BMW, Ford, GM, and Subaru are all on closed-loops, so any inferences of driver attention waning are all handled inside the car.

The carmakers also say that no video is recorded, saved, or transmitted. That’s because they don’t use cameras to record video. Instead, they use infrared technology to measure eye positions or head movements.

Tesla’s in-car cameras are off by default when you take possession of your new vehicle. When the user activates them, they run continuously to a buffer. In the event of a crash or automatic braking activation, the Tesla records a video of the event and then shares it to Tesla’s servers. That sharing is so Tesla can “develop future safety features and software enhancements,” but it also brings privacy concerns.

While the owner of the Tesla can probably be assumed to have agreed to the recordings when they agreed to Tesla’s Terms and Conditions, that can’t be said for any passengers. It could also land the driver or Tesla in hot water with lawmakers, as some states require two-party consent for any recordings to be made.

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