Electric carmaker Tesla is facing a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, accusing the company of violating the privacy of its customers. The lawsuit was filed by a San Francisco resident and Tesla owner, Henry Yeh, who alleges that Tesla employees were able to access videos and images recorded by customers’ car cameras for their personal entertainment.
The lawsuit comes after Reuters reported 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. The complaint filed by Yeh alleges that Tesla employees were able to access these images and videos for their “tasteless and tortious entertainment” and “the humiliation of those surreptitiously recorded.”
Yeh’s attorney, Jack Fitzgerald, stated that his client was outraged at the idea that Tesla’s cameras could be used to violate his family’s privacy, which the California Constitution scrupulously protects. He added that “Tesla needs to be held accountable for these invasions and for misrepresenting its lax privacy practices to him and other Tesla owners.”
The lawsuit alleges that Tesla’s conduct is “particularly egregious” and “highly offensive.” It further states that Yeh is 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.
According to Reuters, some Tesla employees could see customers “doing laundry and really intimate things. We could see their kids,” citing a former employee. The lawsuit claims that parents’ interest in their children’s privacy is one of the most fundamental liberty interests society recognizes.
The lawsuit is seeking to enjoin Tesla from engaging in its wrongful behavior, including violating the privacy of customers and others, and to recover actual and punitive damages. Tesla has not yet responded to the lawsuit.
The incident is the latest in a series of privacy concerns that have plagued technology companies. In recent years, companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon have faced criticism and legal action over privacy violations. As technology continues to advance and companies collect more data, privacy concerns are likely to remain a major issue for consumers and regulators.