Car owner sues Tesla over alleged intrusion of privacy

A California-based owner of a Tesla vehicle has sued the electric carmaker in a prospective class action lawsuit accusing it of violating the privacy of customers.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on Friday.

It came after reports on Thursday that groups of Tesla employees privately shared via an internal messaging system sometimes highly invasive videos and images recorded by customers’ car cameras between 2019 and 2022.

Henry Yeh, a San Francisco resident who owns Tesla’s Model Y, alleged in the lawsuit that Tesla employees were able to access the images and videos for their “tasteless and tortious entertainment” and “the humiliation of those surreptitiously recorded”.

“Like anyone would be, Mr Yeh was outraged at the idea that Tesla’s cameras can be used to violate his family’s privacy, which the California Constitution scrupulously protects,” Jack Fitzgerald, a lawyer representing Yeh, said in a statement.

“Tesla needs to be held accountable for these invasions and for misrepresenting its lax privacy practices to him and other Tesla owners,” Fitzgerald said.

There was no immediate response from Tesla.

The lawsuit said Tesla’s conduct is “particularly egregious” and “highly offensive”.

It said Yeh was filing the complaint “against Tesla on behalf of himself, similarly situated class members, and the general public”. The complaint said the prospective class would include individuals who owned or leased a Tesla within the past four years.

Some Tesla employees could see customers “doing laundry and really intimate things. We could see their kids”, Reuters news agency quoted an unnamed former employee as saying.

“Indeed, parents’ interest in their children’s privacy is one of the most fundamental liberty interests society recognises,” the lawsuit said.

It asked the court “to enjoin Tesla from engaging in its wrongful behavior, including violating the privacy of customers and others, and to recover actual and punitive damages”.