Tesla Files: 100 gigabytes of confidential data leaked by whistleblower

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In a report by Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper, which cited 100 gigabytes of confidential information disclosed by a whistleblower, Tesla has failed to safeguard data from customers, employees, and business partners, reported Guardian. The report also suggests that the carmaker has received thousands of consumer complaints about its driver assistance system.

This comes after a Reuters article last month, said Tesla employees shared very intrusive videos and photographs taken by consumers’ car cameras secretly between 2019 and 2022. 

According to the latest Handelsblatt article, a data file known as the “Tesla Files” contained “ample” amounts of client data which includes tables with over 100,000 names of former and present employees, including Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, and his social security number, as well as confidential information such as private email addresses, and phone numbers.

The breach would be against General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the publication said. It is a comprehensive data protection law enacted by the European Union (EU) to protect the personal data and privacy rights of individuals within the EU and governs how organizations collect, use, store, and process personal data.

The data protection office in German state of Brandenburg, which is home to Tesla’s European gigafactory, described the data leak as “massive”. “I can’t remember such a scale,” the Brandenburg data protection officer, Dagmar Hartge, said. If such a breach were to be shown, Tesla might face fines of up to 4% of its annual sales, or around €3.26 billion ($3.5 billion).

Moreover, there have been several consumer complaints concerning Tesla’s driving assistance features. It includes over 4,000 complaints about sudden acceleration or phantom brakes.

“These revelations … fit with the picture that we have gained in just under two years,” said Dirk Schulze, IG Metall incoming district manager for Berlin, Brandenburg and Saxony.

According to a Tesla lawyer quoted by Handelsblatt, a “disgruntled former employee” exploited his position as a service technician. The lawyer also said that the business will file a lawsuit against the person it suspected of the leak.

Data protection agency in Netherlands over leaks 

The data protection agency in Netherlands said on Friday that it was aware of potential Tesla data security violations. “We are aware of the Handelsblatt story and we are looking into it,” said a spokesperson for the AP data watchdog in the Netherlands, where Tesla’s European headquarters is located.

The data protection agency in the German state of Brandenburg notified the Dutch agency.

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Tesla reportedly informed the Dutch authorities of the breach, according to Handelsblatt, but the AP representative said they were unaware of any disclosures the business may have made to the agency. On Friday, Tesla was unavailable for comment.

Leaked video clips

Earlier, a few of the clips showed Tesla owners in awkward circumstances. For instance, a video of a man approaching a car being entirely nude was recounted by one ex-employee. 

In another video, an ex-employee said a Tesla was shown in a collision video from 2021 travelling quickly through a residential neighbourhood before striking a child riding a bike. Both the child and the bike flew in opposite directions. 

Facebook slapped with fine 

This Monday, the top EU privacy authority imposed a record €1.2 billion punishment on Facebook parent company Meta for how it handled user data and gave Meta five months to stop sending user data to the US.

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