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June 4, 2019updated 05 Jun 2019 11:54am

Tesla blocks access to anonymous workplace chat app Blind amid crackdown on employee leaks

By Luke Christou

Tesla has begun blocking its employees from accessing anonymous workplace chat app Blind, according to its developers, in an apparent attempt to protect against employee leaks.

Blind allows employees to discuss workplace matters anonymously with their colleagues and industry peers through public and private forums. Since launching in the United States in 2015, the app has attracted thousands of workers from Silicon Valley tech giants including Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Amazon.

More than 2,100 Tesla employees have signed up to Blind. However, the automotive company appears to have moved to stop that figure from increasing.

Blind was alerted to the issue on 4 May after Tesla employees began experiencing difficulty receiving verification emails. In order to verify employment, users must sign up using a valid workplace email address. Tesla appears to have blocked the delivery of these verification emails to Tesla addresses, meaning employees are unable to validate new accounts.

Employees also claim that they have been blocked from accessing the Blind app through Tesla’s WiFi network.

“We found out about this issue through emails from our users, saying they were unable to receive verification emails from us, and posts on the public channel, where already verified Tesla employees raised the issue,” a Blind spokesperson told Verdict. “Then we looked into the verification rates and we could confirm that Tesla is preventing employees from accessing Blind.”

Verdict has contacted Tesla to verify the claims but has yet to receive a response. However, Tesla employees on a public Blind post confirmed the apparent attempts to block access.

One anonymous employee wrote: “Pretty sure verification email doesn’t reach mailbox. Clearly blocking this internationally.”

Another Tesla employee said: “Blind is a great place to understand work culture, WLB [work-life balance], compensation etc from better companies. Tesla sucks at every damn one of them so, better kill voices.”

Despite these attempts to limit access to the app, Blind told Verdict that engagement among Tesla employees has increased by 25% since it discovered the verification delivery failures.

Tesla warns against employee leaks

The reason for Tesla’s decision to block the Blind app is unclear. However, the developer believes that it may link back to the theft and leaking of confidential information by a former Tesla employee last year, and the company’s ongoing battle to stop similar leaks from occurring.

In June 2018, Tesla founder Elon Musk claimed that a disgruntled employee had broken into the company’s manufacturing system and sent “large amounts of highly-sensitive Tesla data” to third parties after failing to secure a promotion.

On 3 May, the day before Blind was alerted to the verification failures, Tesla reportedly sent out a company-wide email warning those found to be leaking information that they will face termination, damage claims or criminal charges if caught.

According to CNBC, the email claimed that Tesla employees were being actively sought out on social media platforms by those hoping to gain access to confidential information.

Mimicking Uber’s attempts to block Blind

According to Blind, Tesla is currently the only company attempting to block its employees from accessing or signing up to the app. However, it isn’t the first to attempt to do so.

Uber similarly stopped Blind from launching on its company network in 2017 after employee Susan Fowler published a blog detailing sexual harassment within the company, which prompted a costly scandal for the ride-hailing giant.

The decision appeared to be reversed after founder Travis Kalanick was ousted as CEO and replaced by Dara Khosrowshahi, who was tasked with restoring Uber’s damaged reputation.

A slow start to 2019

Tesla’s stock hit a new annual low last week as it fell to $160, equating to a drop of more than 40% in 2019.

The company has suffered a rocky start to the year. Disappointing production figures of 77,000 were reported in Q1 that left the company well off the target of 500,000 vehicles produced in 2019 set by Musk, who has faced his own difficulties with the Securities and Exchange Commission over his past claims that he would take Tesla private.

Read more: Insider threat: 25% of us would sell out our employers for just £1,000