Data leak by ‘disgruntled’ employee lands Tesla in hot water
The electric car maker is under fresh scrutiny over a huge data breach and renewed concern over its technical issues
A whistleblower working at Tesla has leaked 100 gigabytes of sensitive data detailing technical faults with the company’s vehicles and also divulging a mass of personal data on staff and clients, newspaper Handelsblatt has reported, dubbing the leak “The Tesla Files.”
A report under the title “My autopilot almost killed me” was published online by the outlet on Thursday. It states that “huge amounts of internal information have escaped from the company” and that this leaked information suggests that Tesla’s problems with its autopilot function “could be even bigger than previously thought.”
The Tesla Files reportedly contain thousands of complaints made between 2015 and 2022 by customers from across the US, Europe and Asia, which raise serious concerns about the safety of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) feature. Among the reported issues are self-acceleration and braking problems, with some describing incidents where cars “suddenly brake or accelerate abruptly.” According to Handelsblatt, while some drivers safely regained control of their car, others “ended up in a ditch, hit walls or crashed into oncoming vehicles.”
Tesla also likes to keep its vehicles’ data under wraps and doesn’t share written reports about incidents with customers, Handelsblatt reports, citing the leaked files.
The Elon Musk firm is facing numerous lawsuits over its driver-assistance systems and is under investigation by the US road transportation agency NHTSA.
As well as descriptions of technical issues, Handelsblatt also said customers’ and employees’ private details could be found “in abundance” in the leaked data set.
The documents reportedly contain more than 100,000 names of former and current employees, and included the social security number of CEO Elon Musk, along with employees’ private emails, phone numbers and salaries, as well as the bank details of customers and secret information from production.
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Handelblatt says Tesla has failed to adequately protect sensitive and personal data. It cites internal guidelines under which information such as passport and social-security numbers may only be shared with password protection and with access granted only to certain employees. However, according to the outlet, the leaked files suggest that Tesla is not implementing these regulations.
The data breach would violate the EU General Data Protection Regulation and has drawn the attention of German and Dutch authorities. The data-protection supervisory authority in the Netherlands, home to Tesla’s European headquarters, has been informed of the incident and authorities in the German state of Brandenburg, where Tesla’s Gigafactory is located, have serious indications of possible data-protection violations, the newspaper wrote.
A lawyer for Tesla told Handelsblatt that a “disgruntled former employee” had abused his access as a service technician to get information and added that the company would take the ex-employee to court. According to Reuters, Tesla was not immediately available for comment on the report.
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