Stalked by a Tesla

  • December 20, 2023

Stalkers used to actually have to stalk their target. Now there’s an app for that. It can be used to stalk the car – if it’s a device – and thereby, whoever’s driving it. It can be used to find out where the device is parked – and so, establish the probable location of the person who parked it there. It can be used for many other things besides, such as opening the devices locked doors without a key.

And it comes standard in every Tesla device.

Reuters published a news story the other day about a man who used the app to stalk his estranged wife, who had taken out a restraining order against him. He apparently used the app to follow her to where she parked and then swiped and tapped the app that unlocked device’s locked doors – and left a baseball bat on the rear seats, Sicilian Message style. The Tesla in question was jointly owned by the couple and so – notwithstanding the restraining order – the man was able to access the device using the app and thereby efficiently stalk his estranged wife using his phone.

The wife tried to sue Tesla but her case was tossed because the husband was the legal co-owner of the device and so (the court said) had a legal right to use the app that came with the device.

Per Reuters:

A judge agreed that Tesla could not revoke the man’s access to a car he co-owned. San Francisco police requested evidence from Tesla regarding the car in question and the data delivered to the man’s app. Tesla itself denied the request and argued that since there was no proof that the woman’s husband used the app to stalk her, it wasn’t legally responsible for acting on her behalf. Tesla stated in response to the San Francisco case that it ‘does not have a specific companywide policy’ for handling stalking allegations in relation to its vehicles or related technology.”

Italics added.

No proof of stalking . . . other than the baseball bat left on the backseat. Or the device’s ability to recharge mysteriously turned off.

But the point isn’t that the man used the app to stalk and otherwise control his ex. It is that Tesla can stalk and control anyone who owns one of its devices. In fact, Tesla does stalk everyone who owns one of its devices – if “stalking” is defined as keeping track of where its device is at all times and how it’s being driven whenever it is driven. It also probably knows specifically who is driving it – there are camera and microphones in the device. And it has the capability to exert remote control over its device anytime it likes.

Italics added – to emphasize the fact that ownership is functionally defined as having control over a thing. Ask Rockefeller.

Ask the WEF.

Legalisms are irrelevances when whatever you think you own can be controlled by someone else without your consent. And that latter is implicit when the capability to control the thing is embedded in the thing.

That is the case with Teslas.

You may have read about the company adjusting the range of its devices upward, so as to give owners a better chance of getting away from a hurricane. It sounds benevolent. But the power to give can also take away.

If Tesla can increase the range of its devices by sending an update over the air, it establishes the fact that it can also decrease the range of its devices – to zero, if it likes –  should it decide to do so. The fact that it hasn’t yet done so ought to be cold comfort to Tesla “owners,” who ought to think hard about who is actually in control of the device they think they own.

It’s not just the range, either.

In a device such as a Tesla, everything is electronically controlled and connected – and thus, control over those electronics can be exerted by the actual owner of the device. This includes the steering and the brakes and pretty much everything that isn’t an inert, structural part of the car – such as the body panels. And even those aren’t entirely under your control as a signal can be sent to the device that causes it to drive to wherever the owner (who has the control) decides he’d like the car to go.

Again, the fact that Tesla has not yet exerted this control is as much an irrelevance as your not having yet been audited by the EyeAreEss. Do you rest easy knowing that what you think of as “your” money and “your” house can be seized at any time by the actual owner of those things?

At least we used to have local control over our cars. This was before they became devices.

If you were driving your car, no one else could drive it. If a tracking device had not been attached to it, no one else knew where you were driving it – or how. A police roadblock might succeed in stopping you – but the car, itself, lacked that power. The company you bought it from could not control it once you bought it- at which point ownership transferred from the company to you.

That’s transitioning to a new paradigm in which stakeholders have control over the things we used to own, such as cars.

It’s not just Tesla, either – though Tesla has facilitated the acceleration of the transition from cars to devices, which is all we’ll be allowed to buy (and use, as they allow) if the net that’s rapidly cinching isn’t somehow cut before it catches and owns us all.

. . .

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