The cost of Full Self-Driving just got a little steeper. But unlike past price hikes, this time drivers won’t be paying with their pocket books.
Driver access to Tesla’s troubled Full Self-Driving Beta program, which costs up to $199 per month and does not actually make Tesla cars fully autonomous, now comes with a new, rather revealing requirement. According to Electrek, Tesla is demanding that Beta testers give the company access to exterior and interior car cameras — and it makes clear that the footage will be tied to those specific cars.
“By enabling FSD Beta, I consent to Tesla’s collection of VIN-associated image data from the vehicle’s external cameras and Cabin Camera in the occurrence of a serious safety risk or a safety event like a collision,” reads a warning prompt shown to customers downloading the latest version of the Beta software, according to Electrek.
That the data is “associated” with vehicle identification numbers means Tesla will know which car, specifically, the footage comes from. The fact that the company reserves the right to access interior and exterior camera data in the nebulous and ill-defined case of a “safety risk” leaves Tesla owners wide open to potential abuse.
“[Unless] we receive the data as a result of a safety event (a vehicle collision or airbag deployment) — camera recordings remain anonymous and are not linked to you or your vehicle,” reads the policy in part.
We reached out to Tesla’s privacy contact for clarification on what circumstances the company would collect interior car camera footage tied to specific VINs, but received no immediate response. As the company notoriously does not respond to questions from the press, we imagine that will remain unchanged.
That a company might abuse access to customer data broadly, and customer video more specifically, is not a theoretical concern. In 2020, Ring, which is owned by Amazon, admitted that employees tried to access customers’ cameras. A former ADT technician successfully did just that. And Wired reported just this month that Amazon employees routinely looked up the private purchase histories of celebrities and ex-romantic partners.
Your car knows too much about you. That could be a privacy nightmare.
Modern cars like those made by Tesla allow for the broad collection of owner data. Exterior and interior car video, tied to a specific VIN so the owner can be identified, is perhaps the most obviously invasive manifestation of that practice.
But no one said Teslas were cheap. It just turns out that customer privacy is now part of the cost of entry.