Why it matters: In the three years since Tesla electric vehicles started recording their surroundings while parked, they’ve proven an effective security measure and legal tool. However, they’ve also brought up surveillance concerns with some, including at least one major police department.
Tesla EVs have recorded 360-degree video of outside activity whenever they detect threats since the company introduced “sentry mode” in 2019. Since last fall, owners with a premium subscription can live stream from the cameras. Those cameras have reportedly caught people damaging the vehicles and one person who inexplicably unplugged someone’s Tesla from a charging station.
Attorney Daniel Meier says that Tesla cameras are legally similar to doorbell cameras — their recordings are admissible in court. They could also be just as controversial.
Doorbell cameras have been both useful and contentious. They’ve helped solve crimes, but some, including politicians, are concerned they may record too much private activity. Others are worried they may become a police surveillance tool. Tesla cameras could bring the same issues to every parking lot.
This is why the Berlin police are trying to regulate the presence of Teslas near police headquarters or other police property, where recording devices are already banned.
An internal police newsletter expressed fears that cameras on Teslas and other vehicles present a security risk, partially because video from Teslas in Europe goes to Dutch servers under Tesla’s control. The police claim Tesla permanently stores and then processes surveillance video in the Netherlands, but the company has never confirmed this.