Tesla Sentry Mode Faces Problems in Europe, Where Filming in Public Places Is Prohibited

Tesla Sentry Mode faces problems in Europe 6 photos
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Tesla Sentry Mode has proven a valuable tool to protect from theft and vandalism, but European authorities think it might infringe on data protection regulations. Recording in public places without people’s consent is prohibited under European laws, and this has caused Tesla to change the way it advertises Sentry Mode in Germany.
Tesla Sentry Mode is a useful feature that combines security and dashboard camera features. The Sentry Mode footage often helped catch criminals who vandalized Tesla vehicles, quickly becoming a public favorite. Still, Tesla’s feature has attracted unwanted attention from authorities and regulators, who worry Tesla cars might spy on others.

China was among the first to raise the issue, saying that Tesla might secretly record in sensitive areas such as military bases and other secret locations. Later, Tesla went under fire in Europe, where the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) prohibit recording people without their consent. In February, Tesla avoided a fine in the Netherlands after changing how Sentry Mode worked and made it clear to owners that they bear full responsibility for where and when the system records surrounding images.

Tesla faced similar charges in Germany after a local consumer association sued Tesla for filming in public without consent. Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (VZBV) filed a lawsuit last July alleging that the automaker was misleading consumers by not informing them in advertising that they could be violating data protection regulations. The lawsuit basically says that using Sentry Mode in public spaces to film passers-by without their knowledge is prohibited.

After a hearing in Berlin, Tesla issued a cease-and-desist declaration stating that it would change how it advertises the Sentry Mode in Germany. Like in the Netherlands, this concludes the case and allows Tesla to avoid being fined for violating privacy laws. Most probably, Tesla will also warn owners in Germany that they bear legal responsibility for using Sentry Mode.

A spokesperson for Berlin’s data protection agency told Reuters that the person driving the car is responsible for turning off the cameras in public spaces. The responsibility would extend to the company if images were transmitted to and stored by Tesla. This is similar to what happened in the Netherlands earlier this year. Tesla assured in that case that Sentry Mode footage is only stored in vehicles and changed the way the feature works. For instance, the car would flash lights to warn passers-by that footage is being recorded.

Based on the restrictions imposed by the European GDPR, it looks like Sentry Mode would not be that useful in Europe. Considering that all the countries in the European Union must enforce the same regulations, Tesla faces similar lawsuits across the continent. At some point, it might choose to cripple Sentry Mode or remove it altogether from the cars sold in Europe.
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About the author: Cristian Agatie
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After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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