Tesla makes Sentry Mode more “privacy-friendly” after Dutch investigation
An investigation by authorities in the Netherlands prompted electric car manufacturer Tesla to reduce the period of time in which video footage captured by their parked vehicles’ external cameras is stored. Additionally, the cameras will no longer record footage by default, the Dutch Date Protection Authority (DPA) said on Wednesday.
“The DPA conducted an investigation into the Sentry Mode in Tesla vehicles. This is a feature intended to protect the vehicles against theft and vandalism, among other things. It does this by recording images using four external cameras on the vehicle,” the DPA said.
“When Sentry Mode was enabled, the cameras continuously filmed everything around the parked vehicle, and these images were saved for one hour,” the DPA continued. “And if a user does turn them on, no more than the last 10 minutes of footage is saved.” The cameras will be disabled by default once software updates are applied. If a Tesla is touched while in Sentry Mode, it can send a notification to the vehicle owner, who can then turn the cameras on and record footage.
The DPA said that it makes the vehicles more “privacy-friendly,” as Tesla models parked on the street often filmed anything and everyone who came in close proximity to a vehicle. Additionally, the images were stored for an extended period of time. “If every car were to do that, we’d have a situation where no one could go anywhere in public without being watched,” said DPA board member Katja Mur.
“If a person parked one of these vehicles in front of someone’s window, they could spy inside and see everything the other person was doing. That is a serious violation of privacy.”
When Tesla cameras are recording, a message stating this may be displayed on the vehicle’s touchscreen as a public warning. Additionally, the headlights can pulse as an alert. Video is stored at the vehicle, and not shared with Tesla.
From now on, the cameras are off by default. If someone touches the car, the owner will receive a notification on his or her phone. Then the cameras can be turned on. They then store a maximum of 10 minutes of images.
The car manufacturer will not be fined by the Dutch DPA as the vehicle owners are legally responsible for the recordings caught by their car’s cameras. “Tesla has also reduced the risk of the owners of its cars violating the law by illegally filming people,” Mur said.