While the Tesla super factory in Berlin has finally started mass production of German-made Tesla electric cars, these new cars may not be free to go anywhere. Berlin police are set to issue a ban on any Tesla coming near police stations and police headquarters because they believe the cars pose a threat to data security and could facilitate espionage.
The reason for this is Tesla's "Sentry Mode". Originally (or officially) designed to protect electric cars from vandalism or theft by photographing the car's surroundings, the Berlin police consider this feature to be a form of spy mode.
Internal police documents read, "Tesla poses a threat to the security of employees, third parties and the property and privacy of the Berlin police."
Furthermore, Tesla not only records data, but also uploads it to Tesla's servers in the Netherlands, and only Tesla can decide what to do with the data and whether to publish it. Therefore, the police consider this to be a threat to data privacy.
The police said in the document that it was "incomprehensible" that Tesla users were apparently unaware of how the data was being processed. The police believe that any audio or video recordings of Tesla would be beyond their jurisdiction.
As a result, the Berlin police security chief ordered that the Tesla ban "will be implemented as a sector-wide measure by all district chiefs responsible for police property in their respective regions."
The ban has already affected one senior police officer. Thomas Goldacre, head of the second bureau in western Berlin, drives a Tesla. So far, the car can still be seen in his designated parking space, still on police premises. It may be up to Goldacre to decide whether to do away with the "Sentinel" mode or opt for an alternative commute.
However, the Berlin police later tweeted an update saying that no final decision had been made to ban Teslas altogether, nor indeed any other cars that could monitor their surroundings from police premises.
Police said:- "A blanket ban on vehicles with environmental monitoring, such as Teslas, is not yet an official policy of the police department. The authorities' review has not yet been completed, so yesterday's internal information is currently not valid."
The Berlin police are not the only foreign department concerned about Tesla's spying activities. As of July 1, the Beidaihe district of the Chinese city of Qinhuangdao reportedly banned Tesla cars from driving in the area for at least two months. There will be an important meeting there.
At the same time, the police sometimes benefit from Tesla's Sentinel model. For example, after an accident, investigators sometimes log on to Tesla's European data centre and the car's internal memory to view footage of the scene with a judicial search warrant.