Tesla says cameras in its cars aren't enabled in China after reported security concerns from the Chinese government

Tim Levin
·2 min read
Tesla Shanghai China Factory
Elon Musk has said that China will be Tesla's most important market. Xinhua/Ding Ting via Getty Images
  • Tesla said on Chinese social media that its cars' cameras aren't active outside of North America.

  • Chinese officials are reportedly concerned that Teslas pose a security risk due to their cameras.

  • Tesla has tried to reassure the Chinese government that its cars don't record any sensitive data.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Tesla on Wednesday said cameras integrated into its cars aren't activated outside of North America.

The comments on Tesla's Chinese social-media page came after reports of alarm within the Chinese government over the carmaker's ability to record sensitive information through its vehicles.

"Even in the United States, car owners can freely choose whether to turn on [the camera system's] use. Tesla is equipped with a network security system with world-leading security levels to ensure user privacy protection," Tesla wrote in a post on social-media site Weibo, according to Reuters.

In March, multiple outlets reported that China had cracked down on the use of Teslas among military and other government workers, citing security risks posed by the cars' internal and external cameras. Military personnel were told to park Teslas outside of their housing compounds, Bloomberg reported. The restrictions on where Teslas can be driven extended to employees of certain government agencies and state-owned companies, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Like many automakers, Tesla includes exterior cameras on its vehicles that send information to driver-assistance systems, aid with parking, and deter theft. Many Teslas also have an interior camera that records in the moments surrounding a crash, provided drivers opt in to that feature.

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Following the reports, Tesla CEO Elon Musk embarked on a public-relations campaign to make nice with Beijing. Musk spoke at a government conference in March to reassure Chinese officials that his company's vehicles don't pose a security risk.

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

During an appearance on Chinese state television in March, Musk praised the country's economy and climate policies and said it will be Tesla's biggest market.

China, an increasingly important market for Tesla, accounted for roughly 20% of the carmaker's annual revenue in 2020, up from 12% the previous year. The company operates a Gigafactory in Shanghai that produces cars for the Chinese market and will conduct research and development for future vehicles.

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