Are clear cars a threat to Tesla

The e-car manufacturer Tesla is building the so-called Giga-Factory near Berlin. 500,000 cars a year should come off the assembly line here - politicians are celebrating the project. Contrasts has analyzed what these cars can do besides driving - namely video surveillance. In the new models from the US automaker Tesla, cameras can record what is happening outside the vehicle. In addition to the driver, who can partially view and save the razor-sharp images of the surroundings, the company apparently has access to the images - via remote access from the USA. The driver has no control over which data the group collects. For privacy advocates, it is a blatant breach of the law. According to Tesla, these data transfers are, among other things, about the “effectiveness of our advertising campaigns and the operation and expansion of our business activities.” Data protectionists and politicians are hopelessly overwhelmed by the problem.

Introduction: And the thing rocks too, many in Germany think - electric cars from Tesla - more modern, quieter, more expensive than the rest. More myth than mechanical engineering will soon be made in Brandenburg. No matter where you go with a Tesla. Tesla is watching. Even sees a lot more than the driver. Eight cameras film what is moving around the car. You. Me. Everything. Elon Musk was only recently in Berlin. Or rather: we him! Chris Humbs and Marcus Weller.

Finally he is in Berlin, the megastar Elon Musk: Head of Tesla, a visionary for sure - but also a savior? In any case, the media cheer him - the future as a guest! He is courted - also and especially by the political celebrities.

Elon Musk

"Germany rocks."

In the middle of the front yard of BMW, Daimler and Co., the billionaire from California blocks a mega-factory in the sands of the Brandenburg region. 500,000 Teslas a year should soon roll off the production line here in Brandenburg.

The high-tech cars not only drive purely electrically and almost by themselves, they are also the purest surveillance machines. But in order:

Oliver Krüger is an electric car enthusiast. The blue Model 3 is already his second Tesla. Soon the car will no longer need a driver. To make it work, it is crammed full of sensor technology - especially cameras

Oliver Krüger, Tesla owner

"Here. There are three units installed in the front, at least two of which are cameras. Then we have a blinker here, and at the same time a camera is integrated here, which practically films the blind spot that you normally have. And then we have the counterpart here in the B-pillar. It looks forward at an angle so that the entire area is covered with two cameras that also overlap. So there is no blind spot in between, so to speak, on the other side as well. And then of course I have a camera on the back like many other cars. It films what's going on behind the car. "

This video shows what Tesla does with the images from the eight cameras. A high-performance computer constantly measures its surroundings and can recognize lanes, cars and obstacles around the vehicle. The Tesla not only processes the data, it also saves the images. In the so-called dashcam mode, which the driver can switch on, he records license plates, people, faces - whether they want it or not.


"So what? If I could now complain to you and say your car recorded me, I want you to delete the recordings. "

Oliver Krüger, Tesla owner

"How does that work? Should I be found then? First ask who I am using the license plate and file a complaint. "

Because you cannot defend yourself against the recordings, the use of dash cams is not permitted in Germany. Stefan Brink is the state commissioner for data protection in Baden-Württemberg and has very bad news for Tesla drivers:

Stefan Brink - State Data Protection Officer Baden-Württemberg

“If a vehicle drives in public traffic and is constantly recording all the others, that is a clear breach of data protection. That must not be. Such cameras may only be used in individual cases for a specific event. But permanent filming using vehicles is prohibited. "

Tesla says it's up to the driver to take the risk. But the car offers even more. Even when parked - as here in front of the Bundestag - he can observe his surroundings. If the so-called guard mode is switched on, the car automatically records videos. Oliver Krüger no longer has any control over what and when the car records. The Tesla decides for itself who it considers a threat. Here e.g. Federal Family Minister Giffey with accompaniment.

Oliver Krüger, Tesla owner

“I don't want to get into trouble myself that I'm doing something under data protection law that is wrong. That I film something that I was not allowed to film, that the car automatically films something without my knowledge that it is not allowed to film. "

No control over the video data that a Tesla records - this applies to the driver and the people filmed. We rent a Tesla ourselves and want to know, are people aware that a car is watching them? This lady just walked past the car.


“Now you come into the picture. Here I am addressing you. The problem: Not only can I, as a driver, download, send, and use the material, but also Tesla. Tesla has access to all cameras in the car. Could use this as it wants? What do you think?"


"Spooky. That's unbelievable, you don't even know that. "

At least as a Tesla driver, you could know if you read the privacy policy carefully. There, the company explains that it gets all kinds of data from the car, including videos. Even the way is described.


"We can collect this information either personally or remotely."

Tesla writes that the Dascam videos are only broadcast after special events such as an accident. Tesla decides what to do with it.

Stefan Brink - State Data Protection Officer Baden-Württemberg

“Modern vehicles have a large number of sensors, including cameras and microphones. As data protectionists, we cannot rule out that this technology will actually be used and that data flows will then also follow, for example to the USA, which from our point of view are clearly illegal. "

Then let's try it ourselves. In a test workshop, we want to find out whether Mr. Krüger's car actually connects to Tesla in the USA. For this we offer the car a WiFi network that we can monitor. And indeed. After just a few minutes, the car connects. This is followed by a transmission to the American west coast. The content is encrypted, so we don't know it.

Autonomous driving is the future for all car manufacturers - including and especially for Germans. The data that is collected in the car for this is enormous. Braking behavior, times, even the emotional state of the driver can be determined - to improve the technology, other uses are also conceivable.

Wojciech Wiewiórowski, European data protection officer

"We have to be clear that information about us sometimes goes to insurance companies and sometimes to the manufacturers of the devices."

The evaluation of data from vehicles also makes it possible to predict future behavior of users. In Germany, Tesla is already looking for insurance experts who can use its data to create products. And so the look to Brandenburg is a look into the future. We ask the state data protection officer whether she is prepared to check Tesla. Answer: If she were responsible at all,


"... this would lead to another massive workload that could hardly be managed in the already extremely tense personnel situation."

Stefan Brink - State Data Protection Officer Baden-Württemberg

“We wouldn't be able to do that financially. That is why we are in a certain way dependent on the manufacturers cooperating with us and giving us truthful information. "

So we ask Elon Musk personally. What can Tesla cars do - and above all, what, when and for how long do they transfer data to the USA?


“The cameras from the Teslas transmit live videos to their servers in the USA. Do you think there is a problem with the German data protection laws? "

Elon Musk

"No, they don't stream, that's not true."

Tesla replied in writing today: The General Data Protection Regulation will be complied with and the transferred data can no longer be assigned to the vehicle.

Contribution by Chris Humbs and Marcus Weller