Jack Sweeney tells Dazed about rejecting the $5k offer from the billionaire, his future private jet-tracking plans, and why he wants a Tesla internship
They say never meet your heroes, but they should also say to never set up a bot that monitors the location of the private jets of your heroes. This is what happened to Florida college student Jack Sweeney, a self-described fan of Elon Musk and his various business endeavours. The 19-year-old created @ElonJet, a live tracker which tweets out when and where the billionaire’s PJ takes off and lands.
Musk wasn’t too happy about the account, seeing it as a threat to his safety (“I don’t love the idea of being shot by a nutcase”), and reached out to Sweeney to ask him to take it down. Musk’s mistake? Offering the paltry sum of $5,000 to a teen who was clued-up enough to know that this is a guy with a net worth of $22.2 billion.
The teen then upped his price to $50,000, adding via DM that “it would be great support in college and would possibly allow me to get a car, maybe even a Model 3.” Musk said he’d think about it but still hasn’t said anything else to the aviation enthusiast.
By relying on public data, the bot isn’t actually doing anything illegal, and its system works so well that Sweeney rewrote it to track multiple planes including those of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Air Force One, and Drake – who apparently has “the biggest plane out of all of them,” Sweeney said in an interview. And, in a classic example of the Streisand effect, now everyone knows exactly where to track Elon’s jet.
“Being offered $5k was insane but not enough,” Sweeney tells Dazed. “I haven’t heard anything else from Musk – or others. I’m still a fan, though, he does cool stuff at SpaceX and Tesla, but he’s probably not a fan of me.” As well as asking for 50 thou, Sweeney inquired about the possibility of an internship, which he told us he’d prefer, as it would be “harder to get. So many people can get money but not into SpaceX or Tesla,” he said. It would seem, though, that his plan has backfired slightly – with @ElonJet now blocked by Musk.
Sweeney, who has a part-time job working at UberJets, said that Musk then implemented a blocking system that changes his jet’s identifier and makes it harder to track (a Privacy ICAO Address), but he managed to find a workaround for it. He’s also displaying the jet-tracking project on his CV, in a bid to showcase his work to future employers.
When the news of the bot tracker emerged, some wondered whether it was made to highlight Musk’s excessive carbon footprint. In response to this, Sweeney says: “Of course (the people I track) pollute, but being business people it’s an important aspect for them to be able to travel quickly. If Elon could fly electric I’m sure he would, it’s just not possible right now.”
As far as future plans go, Sweeney said he wanted to expand the tracking service, ”make more of a website, and possibly make some money from it.” Fair play to him.