Authorities Looking Into Possible Data Protection Violations by Tesla

Authorities Looking Into Possible Data Protection Violations by Tesla – According to a report from Handelsblatt newspaper on Thursday, the data protection office in the state where Tesla’s European gigafactory is located has provided German authorities with significant evidence pointing towards potential breaches of data protection by the company. 

The report states that Tesla, the American electric car manufacturer, has not sufficiently safeguarded data belonging to its customers, employees, and business partners. It also mentions that a whistleblower leaked 100 gigabytes of confidential data to the newspaper as evidence of this insufficiency.  According to the newspaper, the data protection supervisory authority in the Netherlands, where Tesla’s European headquarters is situated, has been notified about the situation. 

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Additionally, Tesla has submitted a preliminary report to the Dutch authorities regarding the matter. As per the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), companies are required to take necessary action if they suspect a potential data breach involving personal information. The Brandenburg data protection office could not be reached for immediate comment. Tesla did not provide an immediate response or comment regarding the report. 

Handelsblatt mentioned that the dataset known as “Tesla Files” contains a significant amount of customer data. The files consist of various tables that contain over 100,000 names of both past and present employees, including the social security number of Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk. Additionally, the files contain private email addresses, phone numbers, employee salaries, customer bank details, and confidential production information. 

According to the newspaper, this breach would constitute a violation of the GDPR. Handelsblatt reported that a lawyer representing Tesla stated that an individual described as a “disgruntled former employee” misused their access as a service technician to obtain this information. The lawyer further mentioned that Tesla intends to pursue legal action against the suspected former employee. According to the newspaper, the German authorities were informed about the data protection breach by the whistleblower in April.

The spokesperson for Brandenburg data protection office, as quoted by Handelsblatt, stated that the data protection issue would become significant if there is substantial evidence. The leaked files mentioned by the newspaper revealed thousands of customer complaints regarding the carmaker’s driver assistance systems. Specifically, there were approximately 4,000 complaints related to sudden acceleration or phantom breaking.

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In a Reuters report last month, it was revealed that groups of Tesla employees privately shared videos and images recorded by customers’ car cameras between 2019 and 2022 using an internal messaging system. These shared materials were sometimes highly invasive. Likewise, this week, Facebook parent company Meta received a historic fine from its main European Union privacy regulator. The fine was imposed due to Meta’s mishandling of user information.

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