The original report from Reuters came out on Thursday. Reuters talked to several Tesla employees who said that Tesla dashcam and sentry mode videos were shared within Tesla in private or group chats among employees.
These images and videos included pictures of dogs, funny road signs, and other innocuous content, but also included videos of the inside of garages, of owners’ children, and even a video of a man approaching a vehicle naked.
Tesla recently released a more detailed look at its data privacy approach, in which it asserted that most data is processed directly on vehicles and only certain data is shared with Tesla. Most of that data is anonymized unless associated with a “safety critical event.”
But the report suggests that even though Tesla says it anonymized data, personally identifiable information, including address data, may have been attached to these videos when shared within internal group chats.
Now, we’ve seen one law firm respond swiftly to these allegations by filing a class action lawsuit only one day after the revelations. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court in Northern California by law firm Fitzgerald Joseph LLP on behalf of Henry Yeh, a Tesla owner in San Francisco.
The suit claims that the company violated California’s state Constitution, California privacy laws, and its own privacy policies. It also claims that Tesla misled customers about data privacy. It asks for Tesla to be enjoined from continuing this behavior, and seeks recovery of actual and punitive damages. The damages sought are not enumerated, except that the number is in excess of $5 million.
The lawsuit claims that there are significant potential costs to Tesla customers related to privacy. In order to disable the car’s cameras, an owner would need to pay a professional to disable them, thus reducing paid-for functionality of the car. One former Tesla employee quoted by Insider said that he put tape over his own car’s cameras for a time, after seeing how much access to information Tesla had.
But this is only the first step of a class action lawsuit. First of all, the law firm filing this doesn’t have access to the evidence in question yet, that will come later during discovery.
Since Reuters’ report only dropped yesterday, the lawsuit includes speculation – stating that these videos were “likely” shared externally, though this is not explicitly stated in the report. So filing the lawsuit so quickly does seem a little opportunistic, with the firm wanting to be the first to stake claim to this potential suit.
It also must be decided by a judge whether this is a legitimate class action and whether Fitzgerald Joseph LLP will be able to move forward representing the class.
Read the full lawsuit filing below:
FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.