Elon Musk Offers Student $5,000 to Shut Down Twitter Account Tracking His Private Jet

A student is running a Twitter account that tracks Elon Musk's private jet, and the CEO would rather he shut it down 7 photos
Photo: Twitter / @ElonJet
Elon Musk hosted Saturday Night Live on May 8Elon Musk hosted Saturday Night Live on May 8Elon Musk hosted Saturday Night Live on May 8Elon Musk hosted Saturday Night Live on May 8Elon Musk hosted Saturday Night Live on May 8Elon Musk hosted Saturday Night Live on May 8
Entertainment has long become synonymous with celebrity-watching, whether on TV, on the big screen in documentaries, or by reading online reports about their personal life. The culture of the tabloids and the paparazzi is still very much present, and this story is drawing parallels to both, for the way it is documenting the travels of Elon Musk’s private jet.
Elon Musk, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO and, without a doubt, the most active Twitter user that also happens to be a multi-billionaire, is notoriously private about his personal life. With increased exposure, even of the intentional kind on his part, come increased security risks and the kind of scrutiny that he clearly does not want.

Last November, a Twitter account going by @ElonJet caught Elon’s eye. It also caught the eye(s) of some 89,000 followers and counting (as of the time of press), because it posts data on Musk’s private jet, such as flight times, takeoffs and landings. Musk’s reaction to the activity on the account was “Can you take this down? It is a security risk,” in a DM to Jack Sweeney, who set up the account.

autoevolution has seen the exchange between the two, which started in November and continued until last Wednesday. Jack, who is a student, created about 15 bots that parse publicly available data on several private jets, mostly owned by people in tech like Musk, Bezos and Gates, Protocol first reported. Each bot is assigned a Twitter account and will post information about the respective private jet.

Musk’s private jet, a 2015 Gulfstream G650, travels frequently, though not always with him on board. Still, the fact that the account shares information about it in real-time did not sit well with the CEO, who remarked “I don’t love the idea of being shot by a nutcase.” He offered Jack $5,000 to shut down the account.

Jack responded that he would rather have a Tesla or, even better, $50,000 that would go into his college fund. When Musk asked him how he was able to track his jet so accurately, Jack explained that his bots were reading data on ADS-B Exchange, transmitted from the ADS-B transponders present on all aircraft. It’s public information, if you know where to look, he pointed out. Musk’s jet was on the LADD block list, so its data was not displayed on the FAA tracking list. Jack’s bot is able to synchronize the data from ADS-B Exchange to the anonymized FAA flight paths to obtain real-time readings.

At the end of last month, Jack offered to help Musk and make it harder for him to be tracked down by “crazy people,” as the CEO put it. Musk initially said he was “thinking about it,” which presumably included Jack’s suggestion to add another 0 to the initial offer of $5,000. Whatever his thought process, he eventually added that it didn’t feel right to “pay to shut this down.”

Jack tells autoevolution he plans to keep the account running for the time being. He’s already getting strong negative responses from some of Musk’s fans and followers, but he’s choosing to ignore them. On Twitter, his official stance is that all of this is public information on a privately-owned plane, not the person who owns it, shared with the purpose of “track[ing] business moves not to have people ambush Elon at airports.”

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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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