China snooping row: Musk's Tesla says its car cameras are not activated outside North America

WION Web Team
California, United States Published: Apr 07, 2021, 04:18 PM(IST)

Tesla cars for China Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The Chinese military had banned Tesla Inc's cars from military complexes and housing compounds because of concerns about sensitive data being collected by cameras built into the vehicles

Cameras in Tesla cars are not activated outside of North America, the US automaker said on its Chinese social media page on Wednesday, seeking to assuage security concerns in the world's biggest car market.

The Chinese military had banned Tesla Inc's cars from military complexes and housing compounds because of concerns about sensitive data being collected by cameras built into the vehicles.

Also read| Chinese military bans Tesla cars in its complexes over security concerns

The move followed a security review by the Chinese government as per which officials believe that the sensors in Tesla's cars could record visual images of surrounding locations and obtain data on how and when the cars being used as well as personal information of the drivers and their contact lists synced to the phone.

"Even in the United States, car owners can freely choose whether to turn on its (the camera system's) use. Tesla is equipped with a network security system with world-leading security levels to ensure user privacy protection," the electric carmaker wrote on Weibo, China's Twitter-like social media site.

At a virtual forum in Beijing in March, held not long after reports of the ban surfaced, Tesla founder Elon Musk emphasised the company's business motivations for protecting user privacy.

"There's a very strong incentive for us to be very confidential with any information," Musk said.

"If Tesla used cars to spy in China or anywhere, we will get shut down."

Tesla, like several other automobile manufacturers, uses internal cameras to provide assistance in parking and self-parking functions.

China is a key battleground for electric vehicles. In 2020 Tesla sold 30 per cent of its global total in the country.

Chinese regulators have summoned representatives of US electric car giant Tesla after reported technical problems with their vehicles, notably concerning their safety, officials in Beijing said Monday. 

"Consumers have cited multiple problems, related to unusual accelerations, batteries catching fire, as well as with the remote update system," the State Administration for Market Regulation said in a statement. 

"They were asked to strictly conform to Chinese laws and regulations" in order to "guarantee public security" and the "rights and legitimate interests of consumers", the regulator said.

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