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Class action lawsuit filed against Tesla following video privacy scandal

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Tesla, after news broke of employees sharing private videos internally.

The original report from Reuters came on Thursday. Reuters spoke to several Tesla employees who said Tesla dashcam and guard mode videos were shared within Tesla in private or group chats among employees.

These images and videos included images of dogs, funny road signs and other innocuous content, but also included videos of the inside of garages, of the owners’ children, and even a video of a man approaching a vehicle naked.

Tesla recently released a more detailed look at its data protection approach, claiming that most data is processed directly on vehicles and only certain data is shared with Tesla. Most of this data is anonymized unless it relates to a “security-critical incident”.

But the report suggests that while Tesla says it anonymized the data, personally identifiable information, including address data, may have been linked to those videos when they were shared in internal group chats.

Now we’ve seen a law firm react quickly to these allegations by filing a class action just one day after the revelations. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court in Northern California by the law firm Fitzgerald Joseph LLP on behalf of Henry Yeh, a Tesla owner in San Francisco.

The suit alleges that the company violated the California state constitution, California privacy laws and its own privacy policy. It also alleges that Tesla misled customers about data protection. It asks that Tesla be enjoined from continuing this conduct, and seeks to recover actual and punitive damages. The damages sought are not enumerated, except that the number is over 5 million dollars.

The lawsuit claims that there are significant potential costs for Tesla customers related to privacy. To disable the car’s cameras, an owner must pay a professional to disable them, thereby reducing the paid functionality of the car. A former Tesla employee quoted by Insider said he put tape over the cameras in his own car for a while after seeing how much access to information Tesla had.

But this is just the first step in a class action lawsuit. First, the law firm filing this does not yet have access to the relevant evidence, which will come later during discovery.

Since Reuters’ report first dropped yesterday, the lawsuit includes speculation — saying those videos were “probably” shared externally, although this is not explicitly stated in the report. So filing the lawsuit so quickly seems a bit opportunistic, and the firm wants to be the first to claim this potential lawsuit.

It will also have to be decided by a judge whether this is a legitimate class action and whether Fitzgerald Joseph LLP will be able to move forward and represent the class.

Read the full lawsuit below:

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