Tesla [TSLA:US] has taken steps to reassure drivers in China that their data is secure and not being compromised by its vehicles’ cameras, as reported by TechCrunch on August 15. This move comes in response to concerns that the cameras on Tesla cars, particularly in Sentry Mode, could potentially record and transmit sensitive security information. The company’s response follows news from the previous week that an airport in Hunan province had prohibited Tesla vehicles from using its parking lot due to “confidentiality concerns.” Tesla addressed these concerns by stating that the surveillance data captured by the cameras is stored offline on in-vehicle USB drives. This data is inaccessible remotely to both Tesla and the vehicle owners. Additionally, Tesla emphasized that it had established a data center in China in 2021 specifically for the storage of all data collected from vehicles sold in the Chinese mainland market.
Tesla’s Sentry Mode s designed to utilize the car’s external cameras to identify suspicious activity when the vehicle is parked and unattended. It aims to prevent break-ins and thefts by activating the mode manually. Importantly, the cameras only start recording when a potential threat is detected. Despite China being Tesla’s second-largest market and housing its largest factory, the company has grappled with issues of trust. This challenge is not solely due to its foreign origin but also relates to China’s increasingly stringent data security regulations. In August 2021, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) issued trial guidelines concerning the protection of automobile data. These guidelines stipulate that data involving China’s military, government, traffic, logistics information, and electric vehicle charging networks must be stored within China’s borders.