Tesla’s sentry mode helps catch attackers, leads to possible Berlin police ban

Why it matters: In the three years since Tesla electric vehicles began recording their surroundings while parked, they have proven to be an effective safety measure and legal tool. However, they also raised oversight issues with some, including at least one major police department.

Tesla electric vehicles have recorded 360-degree video of outdoor activity whenever they detect threats since the company introduced “sentinel mode” in 2019. Since last fall, owners of a subscription premium can stream live from the cameras. These cameras reportedly caught people damaging vehicles and someone inexplicably unplugging someone’s Tesla from a charging station.

Attorney Daniel Meier says Tesla cameras are legally similar to doorbell cameras – their recordings are admissible in court. They could also be just as controversial.

Doorbell cameras have been both useful and controversial. They have helped solve crimes, but some, including politicians, fear they are recording too much private activity. Others fear that they will become a tool for police surveillance. Tesla cameras could bring the same problems to every parking lot.

This is why the Berlin police are trying to regulate the presence of Teslas near police headquarters or other police properties, where recording devices are already prohibited.

An internal police newsletter has expressed concerns that cameras on Teslas and other vehicles pose a security risk, in part because video of Teslas in Europe is transmitted to Dutch servers under the control of You’re here. Police say Tesla permanently stores and then processes the surveillance video in the Netherlands, but the company has never confirmed this.

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