February 15, 2013, 3:18 PM — The hubbub over a New York Times review of the Tesla Model S has been bouncing around the InterWebs in unexpected ways. Reporters, bloggers, and readers are now clawing at each other, debating whether the Times’ John Broder deliberately published a fake review in an attempt to kill the car. (A completely ludicrous idea, in my opinion, but one you’ll find repeated all over the Web.)
Among other things, that review prompted Tesla CEO Elon Musk to publish excerpts from data logs the company kept on the car. Musk was trying to show that Broder was lying. What he ended up doing, though, was demonstrating how thoroughly Tesla can snoop on the driving activities of its customers, if it chooses to.
Source: Tesla Motors
What can Tesla learn about you? From the log snapshots posted by Musk, it’s pretty clear Tesla knows
* The precise speed and location of the vehicle at all times
* Whether the driver was using cruise control
* The amount of charge it has at any time
* The amount of time spent at the charging station with the vehicle plugged in
* When the driver ran the heater and, if so, at what temperature
As Forbes blogger David Vinjamuri puts it, “my biggest takeaway was ‘the frickin’ car company knows when I’m running the heater?’ That’s a bigger story than the bad review.”
And if Tesla knows when you’re running the heater, it’s a safe bet they know everything else you’re doing via the Model S’s 17-inch tablet-style dashboard.
In an interview with CNBC shortly after the review appeared, Musk explained:
“Whenever we do media test drives we always turn on detailed vehicle logging. This is not something that is turned on for customers unless we get their explicit written permission. So I want to be clear, we’re very sensitive to privacy and we don’t do this with any customer cars unless they give us explicit literally written permission with a signature.”