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Massive Tesla Files leak may bring US$3.5 billion fine as production secrets and 4,000 rogue Autopilot complaints pop up

100GB Tesla Files breach may have originated from Giga Berlin (image: Tesla)
100GB Tesla Files breach may have originated from Giga Berlin (image: Tesla)
Tesla customer and employee data, including Elon Musk's social security number and other private info, has been leaked by what lawyers say was a disgruntled employee with too much access. The Tesla Files breach includes phantom braking or acceleration complaints against Autopilot, too.

After the EU fined Facebook US$1.3 billion for violating its GDPR rules this week, it may now charge Tesla 4% of its annual revenue there in a similar privacy breach case. That would be about US$3.5 billion for what Handelsblatt calls its "Tesla Files" as they include 100GB of confidential data handed by a whistleblower who Tesla lawyers claim was a "disgruntled former employee" they may have identified.

Apparently, a Tesla "service technician" used their access to the company's intranet to fetch all the inside info they could get their hands on. That includes customer and employee private information such as phone and social security numbers, addresses, bank account details, and even salaries.

Elon Musk's SSN has also been included in the Tesla Files dataset, along with sensitive production information and more than 4,000 complaints against the driver-assist Autopilot software for phantom braking or sudden acceleration. "My Autopilot almost killed me," read one such missive, and as a whole the breach whiffs of "bigger technical problems than previously thought," says Handelsblatt.

The Tesla technician "whistleblower" may have wanted to show how negligent the automaker can be with private data. They were also probably a Giga Berlin employee given that Brandenburg's data protection officer Dagmar Hartge said the office handed the case over to the respective Dutch authorities as that's where Tesla's European HQ is located.

Germany, where the breach probably occurred, has one of the strictest data protection laws around, and its citizens are very privacy-conscious, with numerous safeguards in place when it comes to personal info. Eventually, Tesla's way of storing such data may have looked rather nonchalant to Giga Berlin's "service technician" who ultimately leaked it to local press in a move that Tesla calls "data theft."

The Dutch privacy watchdog only commented that it is "aware of the Handelsblatt story" and is "looking into it." They will now have a few weeks to decide whether to bring up a case against Tesla for violating EU's GDPR regulations and pursue the standard 4% annual revenue fine that this entails.

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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2023 05 > Massive Tesla Files leak may bring US$3.5 billion fine as production secrets and 4,000 rogue Autopilot complaints pop up
Daniel Zlatev, 2023-05-26 (Update: 2023-05-26)