At the gates of Berlin in Grünheide electric cars roll out of Tesla’s new factory, but they shouldn’t go in with the Berlin police. This was ordered by the head of security at the State Criminal Police Office (LKA). 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”.
But on Thursday, the police rowed back again. A general ban on entering certain vehicles does not currently exist, said a spokesman. One thing is clear: the authority is currently looking for ways to deal with the monitoring systems of modern vehicles.
The Tesla house ban for police headquarters and LKA was issued in “anticipation of a final authority-wide regulation situation that is individually tailored to the respective property”. It should take into account “the ongoing development of IT in motor vehicles,” said a spokesman on Thursday. Since this regulation “is still being examined”, the letter from the LKA security chief “has no effect initially”, but “only serves to raise awareness”.
Until the new regulation is complete, “everyone is first responsible (…) that no corresponding recordings are made, whether with the smartphone, the camera or by the automotive IT monitoring the environment.” “All security areas of the Berlin police” without official reason “a ban on audio, photo and film recordings” if they could violate “security-related interests”.
The reason for the original decision of the LKA security chief: 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. The “BZ” reported first.
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 ordered that the Tesla ban “is to be implemented equally by all those responsible for their respective police properties as an agency-wide measure”.
Director Goldack parked his Tesla on police premises on Wednesday
When asked, however, the police press office said on Wednesday 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. The order of the security chief of the police has so far apparently had no consequences for Goldack.
Ammunition bunkers and camouflage markers must be protected
The trade unions and professional associations reacted differently. “It is good that such an incorrect letter is corrected immediately,” said Benjamin Jendro, spokesman for the police union (GdP).
“Today’s technical possibilities are very far-reaching and make it necessary to constantly optimize security measures on properties,” explained Jendro. “But it is also clear that a lot still depends on the people who use the technology.” Video and audio recordings without an official reason are strictly prohibited on police premises.
On the other hand, Jörn Badendick from the “Independents in the Police” association described the process as grotesque. “If employees of the higher service become a security risk for the Berlin police with their private vehicles out of convenience, I expect the independent data protection officers to start investigations immediately.”
“The whole thing is an approach à la Pippi Longstocking – I make the world how I like it,” said Badendick. “Properly, it would have to be checked first and then permission to drive on the site would be granted.”
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 should prevent security areas such as ammunition bunkers, civilian cars with camouflage plates and areas of civilian 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.
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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.
Data protection officer threatens fines
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 judicial search warrant were even able to get away log into Tesla’s European data center – but also in the internal memory of Teslas.