Tesla privacy, and how to improve it

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Tesla has brought a revolution in the automotive industry with its autonomously driving vehicles. But all these autonomous driving features require a Tesla car to collect a lot of information and send it to the company for further processing. From sitting in your car until exiting it your Tesla is constantly sharing data about your drive and the surrounding of the car as well. This raises some privacy-related concerns for people who own and drive a Tesla. So how does Tesla handle the privacy of its users and how you can improve your data privacy if you own a Tesla?

Here are some of the common data privacy related questions people ask about Tesla and their answers:

How does Tesla deal with user privacy?

While Tesla doesn’t disclose the exact process through which it maintains and protects user data it does assures that it uses GDPR guidelines to safeguard user privacy.

How can you improve your privacy if you own a Tesla?

You can improve your privacy by:

  • Regularly delete navigation history from your car’s navigation system
  • Opt-out of sharing data that you think is sensitive
  • Don’t input the exact location of your home in the navigation system

How can you get information removed?

You can reset your Tesla car to factory settings to remove your information. Or contact Tesla directly to request data removal.

How can you find out what information Tesla has about you?

You can log into Tesla’s official website using your Tesla account and request a copy of your data from the company.

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Data privacy is a major concern with autonomous vehicles and Tesla is no exception. While most Tesla owners trust the company with their personal information others have doubts about Tesla’s privacy protection practices. Therefore in this article, we are going to answer the above mentioned Tesla privacy related questions in detail and we will also let you know how you can improve your privacy level.

How does Tesla deal with user privacy?

Tesla doesn’t directly disclose its user privacy protection practices because of the obvious security reasons. But since Tesla is a GDPR compliant company it ensures the privacy of data it holds of people who use their cars according to GDPR guidelines. So as a GDPR compliant company Tesla ensures user privacy in the following ways:

Maintains elaborate records of user data:

Since Tesla sells its cars in the European market it automatically means that it falls under GDPR law which means that Tesla maintains a record of where the user data is coming from and what it is being used for. For example, if a Tesla car sends an error report to the company along with personal information of the car’s owner such as Name, contact information, location, etc then all of this data will be recorded along with the purpose for which the data was collected.

Only authorized personnel within Tesla can access user data:

User data stored by Tesla can only be accessed by authorized personnel and the level of access they have to the user data depends upon the type of data and the sensitivity of data.

Only necessary and relevant data is collected by Tesla:

While it is a well-known fact that Tesla doesn’t comply with the standard data privacy procedures that the majority of automakers comply with but being a GDPR compliant company Tesla can only collect data that is necessary to provide its services effectively. This means that Tesla can only collect and process data that is necessary to make sure that the autonomous cars they sell continue to manufacture properly. But with that being said Tesla still collects a lot more data from its cars and users than other car manufacturers including the settings of the car, the speed at which the car is being driven at, and even the contact lists from the mobile devices that are connected to a Tesla car’s infotainment system.

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Uses state of the art data protection techniques to secure user data:

Data breaches are a real threat and since Tesla relies a lot on the data it collects from its user’s data security is a big concern for the company. Therefore Tesla applies data security measures at the physical level as well as uses firewalls and other mechanisms to secure their data and prevent data breaches. Not to mention that their cars also have various data security measures that prevent unauthorized access to the car and the data stored on the car’s computer.

How can you improve your privacy if you own a Tesla?

If you are someone who cares about your data privacy you might have been wondering how you can make sure that your data is secure when you are using your Tesla. You can improve the level of privacy concerning your Tesla car in the following ways:

Regularly delete navigation history from your car’s navigation system:

Every time you enter a destination into your Tesla’s navigation system the address or destination you entered gets stored in your car’s navigation system. From the day you buy your Tesla your navigation history keeps accumulating the destinations you have traveled to. And if your navigation history falls into the wrong hands it can be a serious risk to your privacy. So it is a good idea to clear your navigation history every week or so to make sure you don’t have any destinations stored in your car’s navigations system.

Opt-out of sharing data that you think is sensitive:

You have the option to stop sharing certain types of data that Tesla uses to provide features such as real-time traffic updates and summon. These features collect some amount of data from your car and you can disable them using your Tesla car’s setting. You have the option to disable basic data sharing by simply going into the “data sharing” option in your Tesla car and find the option to disable the data collection from Safety and security section inside Data sharing. But if you want to opt-out of sharing telemetrics log data such as vehicle identification number; speed information or software version data you have to contact Tesla directly and request them to stop collecting telemetrics log data from your car. There a few ways you can submit your request to opt-out of data sharing with Tesla you can either log in to the official website of Tesla using your Tesla account and contact them through the contact us option. You also have the option to email Tesla directly or send in your opting-out request through traditional mail.

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Note: While you can opt-out of sharing telemetrics log data if you want but Tesla warns that if you do so you might not be able to use certain features of your vehicle or receive software and security updates from Tesla.  

Don’t input the exact location of your home in the navigation system:

Using the navigation feature of a car requires you to enter a certain location where you want to get to. The location can be of your home or your work address or any place you visit frequently. Since using the navigation system is inevitable you are bound to enter the location of your home. But if you don’t want Tesla to know the exact locations through your car’s navigation data you can enter slightly inaccurate locations that are nearby your actual location. This way you can avoid sharing the location of your home or office.

How can you get information removed from Tesla?

Your Tesla is basically a computer on wheels and you already know there is a lot of information stored in your car that can count as private information. And whether you are selling your Tesla or turning it in for service it is a good idea to remove information stored on it before doing so. Luckily doing a factory reset on your Tesla is relatively simple and you can reset your car to factory settings and wipe out all the data from it by going into controls from the main screen and selecting settings and service and reset. By following this path you will find the option factory reset your car by selecting erase and reset. But when it comes to removing the information that has already been sent to Tesla you can contact Tesla to know if the type of information you want them to delete is removable from their records or not. You can submit a data privacy request to get your data corrected by using the contact option available on the official website of Tesla. By logging in to your Tesla account you can easily use the contact form to send a data privacy request to remove your information from Tesla’s records. Or you can always email the Tesla privacy department to request your data to be removed. There is also a third option to mail Tesla your data removal request at their physical address.

How can you find out what information Tesla has about you?

The information Tesla holds about you is associated with your Tesla account and you can obtain a copy of your information by requesting it from Tesla. The process is simple once you request to receive a copy of your data Tesla will verify that it is actually the account owner that is requesting for the copy of data. You can request to receive your data copy from Tesla by going to the Tesla website and logging into the website using your Tesla account. Then you can go into contact option on the website and select a data privacy request on the form where you will find the option to “Obtain a copy of my data”. After that, you will have to specify the time range for which you want to receive a copy of the information. For example, if you want to obtain a copy of your information from 2 days ago you can select 2 days in the form. After that, you will be contacted by Tesla via email to let you know where you can download a copy of your information from.

Does Tesla tell you who they share your information with?

Just like any other auto manufacturer Tesla also has parties such as suppliers and partners who are directly or indirectly involved in providing their services to their customers. And Tesla clearly states in its customer privacy policy that they share user data with some business partners and third parties. Some parties that Tesla claims it may share user information with include:

Insurance providers:

Tesla has to share your information with insurance providers but the information shared with insurance providers is limited to your car’s maintenance only.

Service providers:

Tesla also discloses that it shares your data with parties such as payment service providers, web-hosting providers, delivery and installation service providers, and other similar parties that are necessary for providing or conveying services from Tesla to the customers.

Financial institutions:

If you are leasing your Tesla from a bank for a lease provider then Tesla may also share your data with them to help them process your lease or loan.  

User authorized third parties:

If you are willingly authorizing a third party company such as a social media account provider, a third-party repair or service center, or a third party car accessory provider then Tesla will share your information with such third parties as well. But Tesla states that the information they share with a user authorized third-party companies is not personally identifiable so that your information can not be used by these companies for their financial gains.

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Legal parties:

In case of a court order or a notice from law enforcement agencies, Tesla may provide your information to legal parties or if Tesla thinks that the way you are using their car is illegal or harmful then Tesla might share your information with legal parties in this case as well.

Special circumstances:

Apart from the above-mentioned parties, Tesla may also share your information with other parties such as if you are renting a Tesla product, or in cases where you don’t have the ownership of the car then Tesla may share your information with the actual owner of the car. Or if your data is required for a government program or survey then Tesla might provide limited information to the government as well. Moreover, Tesla if Tesla is merged with another company or acquired by any other company then your information that is held by Tesla might also be shared with the company that Tesla is merging with or getting acquired by.    

Does Tesla remove user information from third parties?

Tesla can only remove user information that is collected in the records of the company and not from the records of third-party service providers. The reason Tesla can not remove user information from its third-party partners is that third party companies might have their own separate privacy policies and they are not directly owned by Tesla. So if you want to remove information that is held by third-party partners of Tesla you are going to have to contact the third-party partners and service providers of Tesla directly. As Tesla clearly states in their Customer Privacy Notice “Please note that we are not responsible for the collection, use, or disclosure policies and practices (including the data security practices) of other organizations, such as any other app developer, app provider, social media platform provider, operating system provider, or wireless service provider, including any information you disclose to other organizations through or in connection with our software applications or social media pages.”