German newspaper Handelsblatt publishes 100GB of confidential Tesla data: here's what's inside

German newspaper Handelsblatt publishes 100GB of confidential Tesla data: here's what's inside

1,388 PDF documents, 1,015 Excel sheets and 213 PowerPoint presentations, as well as thousands of customer complaints: in all, more than 100 GB of data ended up in the hands of the German newspaper Handelsblatt. They concern Tesla, and his most important project: autonomous driving, which according to this information would be, in some circumstances, potentially dangerous. But they also concern all customers of Elon Musk's company, whose data would not have been adequately protected. More: The files include tables containing more than 100,000 names of former and current employees, including Musk's own Social Security number, along with private email addresses, phone numbers, salary, bank details and confidential production information.


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No hackers

Handelsblatt arrived at the data through an anonymous whistleblower. The Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology found no evidence of forgery or tampering with the files. That they are authentic is also confirmed by the fact that Tesla would have tried to prevent the publication of the news, threatening legal action, only to then explain through a lawyer that a "disgruntled former employee" may have abused his access as a service technician to obtain information.

For Handelsblatt, the German authorities have found serious indications of possible data protection violations by Tesla. The American company has a Gigafactory in Germany, but the registered office is in the Netherlands, which is why the data protection supervisory authority in the Netherlands was also alerted. Tesla has already submitted a preliminary report to Dutch authorities on the matter, a move required by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) when a company fears that its customers' personal data may have been breached.


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What's inside

For six months, a team of twelve Handeslblatt editors evaluated Tesla's documents before publishing them. "One of our longest and most complex investigations", as stated on the newspaper's website, which has also made a form available to readers to check if they are among the people involved in the data leak. This applies not only to Tesla owners, but also to employees: if so, you can contact the editorial staff and provide other information.

At the moment, several complaints about problems related to the automatic driving system have emerged from the Tesla files. More than 2,400 incidents of unintentional acceleration and more than 1,500 brake malfunctions, including 139 instances of emergency braking for no reason and 383 unexcused stops resulting from false collision warnings. The cases of crashes would exceed a thousand, but the list of complaints for potentially dangerous malfunctions would be very large, covering over 3000 items, in a period of time ranging from 2015 to March 2022.

Most of the complaints come from the United States, but reports from Asia and Europe, especially Germany, are also found in the files. The Handelsblatt contacted dozens of customers from different countries. All confirmed the information contained in the files, many also provided insights into their experiences with autonomous driving and provided photo and video evidence of the malfunctions they encountered.

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