Electric cars are rolling out of Tesla’s new factory in Grünheide, just outside Berlin, but the Berlin police are not allowing them in. The head of security from the police headquarters and state criminal investigation office has now delegated this.
On Wednesday, he issued an access ban for vehicles from the US manufacturer Tesla for “all properties of the police headquarters and the State Criminal Police Office”.
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The reason for the decision: Teslas are “a security-related threat to employees, third parties (security and data protection) and the properties of the Berlin police (property security)”, as stated in the internal circular from Wednesday.
Specifically, it is about data protection in the vehicles from the company of technology billionaire Elon Musk. At the beginning of January, the police learned that “all vehicle models from the manufacturer Tesla make permanent, event-independent video recordings of the entire vehicle environment and export these recordings”.
The recordings are therefore “permanently stored on Tesla servers located abroad (Netherlands)”. The drivers themselves do not find out how the data is then processed.
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They could be requested by others, Tesla alone decides whether to pass them on, wrote the police chief of security. However, the police remain responsible for compliance with data protection.
The head of security now ordered that the Tesla ban “is to be implemented equally by all those responsible for their respective police properties as an agency-wide measure”.
When asked, however, the police press office said that the local directorates themselves would have to check how they deal with Teslas and let the vehicles drive onto their premises
Thomas Goldack, head of Directorate 2 in the west of the city, is also personally affected. He himself drives a Tesla, the black car is said to have been parked in his personal parking space on the police premises on Wednesday, marked by a blue parking sign that reads “L Dir 2”.
The high-ranking official Goldack must now decide for himself whether his private Tesla can continue to be parked on the police premises of Directorate 2. So far, the order from the police chief of security has apparently had no consequences for Goldack.
The Berlin police also had other suggestions for dealing with electric cars: For example, specific routes and parking spaces with privacy screens could be specified on the police premises for officers with private Teslas.
This was to prevent security areas such as ammunition bunkers, civilian cars with camouflage plates and areas used by civil investigators or special forces from being captured by the Tesla cameras. A solution was also sought for confiscated Teslas, for example by covering them with tarpaulins.
The authority of the Berlin data protection officer was also involved in the case and gave the police information. It’s about the so-called guard mode at Tesla. This allows owners to “capture suspicious activity around their Tesla,” according to the manufacturer.
If a significant threat is detected, “the cameras (…) start recording and the alarm system is activated”. In addition, the owner receives a notification on his mobile phone app. It can even show live images of the vehicle.
For the data protection officer, “every vehicle owner is responsible for the guard mode,” as a spokesman for the authorities told the Tagesspiegel. The sentry mode should not be activated continuously in parking lots for no reason and record images of the environment there.
If there are complaints about the activated guard mode, the data protection officer will initiate a procedure and examine the case. This can lead to a fine for Tesla owners. Superintendent Goldack would therefore have to make sure that his car was not in guard mode on the police premises.
Otherwise, the police have so far even benefited from Tesla’s surveillance mode. After accidents, investigators with a court search warrant were even able to log into Tesla’s European data center – but also into Tesla’s internal memory.