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.”
The information posted by the @ElonJet account is regarded as a security issue by @elonmusk himself.— ALEX (@ajtourville) January 18, 2022
Please, if you care anything about Elon and his family's safety as well as their peace of mind, the least you can do is to unfollow @ElonJet and avoid engaging with its tweets. https://t.co/LwXzS14Gdy
Yeah there is I was talking to Elon about it, but I believe it’s a lot of work. Also got a offer to take the account down but not enough for the amount of work and time I’ve put into it.— Jack Sweeney (@JxckSweeney) January 18, 2022
While ElonJet hasn't come down but I have warned of it. We need to remember to keep our boundaries if we don't it may have to come down or may forcibly be taken down. ElonJet was started to track business moves not to have people ambush Elon at airports.— Jack Sweeney (@JxckSweeney) January 3, 2022