It has been confirmed in the biography that Twitter’s CEO once suggested Tesla record video of drivers’ on-wheel behaviour using the internal monitoring camera. His asserted goal was to use the footage as proof to shield Tesla from inquiries in the event of a crash.
The book ‘Elon Musk’ stated that Elon Musk pushed for the usage of the internal monitoring camera to record footage of Tesla drivers at first without their awareness with the intention of using the footage as proof in investigations linked to the Autopilot ADAS.
According to an excerpt from the book, Musk was convinced that one of the main reasons for accidents was bad drivers and not bad software. “At one meeting, he suggested using data collected from the car’s cameras – one of which is inside the car and focused on the driver – to prove when there was driver error,” the excerpt read.
However, several privacy concerns were raised, one of them being a woman citing legal assistance from the corporation and privacy concerns about the fact that Tesla could not link the selfie streams to specific vehicles, even if they were involved in accidents.
Apparently, Musk was not happy with the answer as according to Isaacson, the “concept of ‘privacy teams’ did not warm his heart[…]I am the decision-maker at this company, not the privacy team. I don’t even know who they are. They are so private you never know who they are,” Musk said during their meeting.
Musk then recommended that a pop-up could be used instead to tell people that if they used Full Self-Driving Beta, Tesla would collect data in the event of a crash. The woman nodded, noting that “as long as we are communicating it to customers, I think we’re okay with that.” The exchange is quite telling of the way Elon Musk runs his companies, and also of his stance on privacy.
The pop-ups are currently a feature in Tesla vehicles, where the company will use the data from internal cameras and notifications will be provided to the users with an option to either agree or disagree with Tesla in collecting their cabin camera data. It is important to note that Tesla has not yet used inside photos of cars to defend itself in court cases or government inquiries involving the Autopilot system.
Currently, Tesla is facing a class action lawsuit in terms of video privacy, following allegations that groups of Tesla employees privately share invasive videos and images, that were the recordings of customers’ car cameras between 2019 and 2022. Another lawsuit was filed in Illinois that focused particularly on the cabin camera.