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Tesla Says Its In-Car Cameras Aren't Activated in China

04/07/2021 | 08:25am EDT

By Matt Grossman

Cameras inside Tesla Inc. vehicles aren't activated outside of North America, the company said Wednesday, the latest in the American electric-vehicle maker's efforts to ease privacy concerns about its cars in China.

"Even in the United States, car owners can freely choose whether to turn on the function," Tesla said in a post Wednesday on Weibo, a Chinese Twitter-like platform. The company said Tesla's network provides a high level of data security.

The statement was part of Tesla's campaign to assure Chinese consumers of privacy after the Chinese government acted on concerns that the vehicles could capture sensitive information and send it back to the U.S. Beijing has restricted the use of Tesla vehicles by military personnel and employees of certain state-owned companies because of national-security risks.

China has become a core market for Tesla. The company sold more than 135,000 vehicles there in 2020, according to the China Passenger Car Association.

The Chinese government's privacy concerns stem in part from cameras that are installed in Tesla's cars. Some Teslas have cameras inside the cabin that can be used to capture video of the seconds before an accident, Tesla says. These aren't functional outside of North America, Tesla said in a Weibo post.

The cars also have external cameras used to support driver-assistance features and to capture video to deter attempted break-ins.

Apart from the cars' cameras, Beijing has also been concerned about how Teslas can access lists of contacts from drivers' mobile phones.

Data-privacy issues have been at the forefront of tensions between the U.S. and China. China's concerns about Tesla vehicles echo U.S. restrictions on telecommunications equipment made by Huawei Technologies Co. and other Chinese companies. American policy makers have said that Huawei equipment could be used to spy for Beijing.

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk told a high-level state-backed conference last month that Tesla would never provide the U.S. government with data collected by its vehicles in China or other countries.

After China's concerns about Tesla came to light last month, Mr. Musk also praised the country's environmental policy and reiterated the company's commitment to selling cars there.

"China in the long term will be our biggest market, both where we make the most number of vehicles and where we have the most number of customers," he said.

Yifan Wang contributed to this article.

Write to Matt Grossman at matt.grossman@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications

This article was corrected on April 12, 2021 to reflect that Tesla Inc. said in a Chinese Weibo post that interior cameras in its cars' passenger compartments aren't activated outside North America. The original version didn't distinguish between the interior and external cameras used in Tesla vehicles.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

04-07-21 1025ET

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