Electric cars are rolling out of Tesla’s new factory in Grünheide, just outside Berlin, but they shouldn’t be cleared by the Berlin police. The head of security of the State Criminal Police Office (LKA) ordered a ban on access to “all the properties of the police headquarters and the State Criminal Police Office” on Wednesday.
But on Thursday the police picked it up again. There is currently no entry ban, a spokesperson said. The confusion was perfect, lack of understanding among some employees. One thing is clear: the authority is looking for ways to address modern vehicle tracking systems.
The Tesla house ban arose in “anticipation of an individually customized final authority-level settlement for the respective property.” Until completed, the letter from the LKA security chief “will initially have no effect”, but “serves to raise awareness,” the spokesman said. Until then, police officers are “responsible” for not photographing a car via smartphone or surveillance system.
The LKA security chief previously saw it differently: 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 on Wednesday.
Specifically, it is about data protection in the vehicles of the company of tech billionaire Elon Musk. In early January, police learned that “all vehicle models from manufacturer Tesla make permanent, event-independent video recordings of the entire vehicle environment and export these recordings.”
The records are then “held permanently on Tesla servers located overseas (the Netherlands)”. The drivers themselves do not find out how the data is then processed.
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They may be requested by others, only Tesla decides whether to pass them on, the police security chief wrote. However, the police remain responsible for complying with data protection.
The security chief ordered that Tesla’s ban “must be fairly enforced by all those responsible for their respective police properties as an agency-level measure.”
Director Goldack parked his Tesla on the police premises on Wednesday
When asked, however, the police press office said on Wednesday that the same local management should check how they deal with Tesla and let the vehicles drive on their premises.
Thomas Goldack, head of Directorate 2 in the western part of the city, was also personally shot. He drives a Tesla himself, the black car allegedly parked Wednesday in his personal parking lot on the police premises, marked with a blue parking sign reading “L Dir 2”.
Senior 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 from the chief of police security has so far apparently had no impact on Goldack.
Ammo bunkers and camouflage signals must be protected
Trade unions and professional associations reacted differently. “It is good that such an erroneous letter is corrected immediately,” said Benjamin Jendro, spokesman for the police union (GdP).
“Today’s technical possibilities are far-reaching and make it necessary to constantly optimize security measures on buildings,” explained Jendro. “But it’s also clear that a lot still depends on the people using the technology.” an official reason are strictly prohibited in police premises.
On the other hand, Jörn Badendick of the “Independents in the Police” association described the trial as grotesque. “If senior service employees become a security risk to the Berlin police with their private vehicles for convenience, I expect independent data protection officers to initiate investigations immediately.”
“The whole thing is a Pippi Longstocking approach: I make the world the way I like it,” said Badendick. “If necessary, it should be checked first and then permission to drive on the site will be granted.”
The Berlin police also had other tips for handling electric cars: for example, you can specify specific routes and parking spaces with privacy screens in police premises for agents with private Tesla.
This is to prevent security areas such as ammunition bunkers, civilian cars with camouflage plates, and areas used by civilian investigators or special forces from being captured by Tesla cameras. A solution was also sought for the 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, providing information to the police. It’s about the so-called guard mode in Tesla. This allows owners to “catch suspicious activity around their Tesla,” according to the manufacturer.
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If a significant threat is detected, “the cameras (…) start recording and the alarm system goes off”. In addition, the owner receives a notification on his mobile app. It can even show live vehicle images.
For the data protection officer, “each vehicle owner is responsible for the guard mode,” as a spokesman for the authorities told Tagesspiegel. Sentry mode should not be activated continuously in parking lots for no reason and record images of the environment there.
In case of complaints about the activated protection mode, the data protection officer will initiate a procedure and investigate the case. This can result in a fine for Tesla owners. Superintendent Goldack would then have had to make sure his car wasn’t in guard mode on the police premises.
If not, the police have so far even benefited from Tesla’s surveillance mode. After the incidents, investigators with a judicial search warrant were even able to access Tesla’s European data center, but also Tesla’s internal memory.