The teenager who followed Elon Musk’s plane is now following the private jets of Russian oligarchs


Jack Sweeney, the Florida student who rose to internet fame stalking the private jets of billionaires like Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, is now following movements of planes belonging to Russian oligarchs.

Sweeney, 19, tracks private flights, posting movements in real time bypassing US Federal Aviation Administration data that allows plane owners to block such tracking.

This is something the industry is trying to stop.

This morning, the National Business Aviation Association announced that it was working with the Federal Aviation Association to improve the ICAO Address Privacy Program or PIA that would prevent workarounds.

More: Superyacht tracking of Russian oligarchs

Since trackers like Sweeney don’t use their data, the FAA has previously said stopping tracking websites is beyond its purview.

Sweeney first gained attention when he posted messages online with Musk where the Tesla boss offered him $5,000 to quit, citing safety concerns. “Can you remove this? It’s a security risk,” he wrote in a post.

The student retaliated by asking for $50,000 and a car. The billionaire Tesla founder apparently interrupted the dialogue, saying, “It doesn’t seem right to me to pay to shut this down.”

Industry officials agree with Musk. At the time, an NBAA spokesperson said Forbes“The real-time tracking and online broadcasting of business aviation flights – by anyone, anywhere in the world, for any motive – raises many serious concerns, particularly in regarding passenger safety, security, and corporate espionage.These concerns have been repeatedly reflected in bipartisan congressional legislation requiring the FAA to provide an opt-out option to real-time flight tracking. »

A lawyer says Sweeney could face civil liability if someone uses his data to commit a criminal act. Sanctions against Russia are expected to mean that aircraft owners will default on lease and loan payments. Will Sweeney’s latest move help regain possession of their jets?

David Hernandez, a partner at Vedder Price and a former FAA and DOT attorney, doesn’t believe Sweeney’s initiative to track the oligarchs is more than a public relations ploy. Although banks may eventually repossess Russian-owned private jets, he says, they won’t need the help of hacking sites.

“Lenders have very sophisticated tracking capabilities,” he says, adding that banking agreements with customers usually allow their jets to be tracked even if they’ve been blocked for the general public.

Sweeney has previously said he makes money on his sites through advertising and selling merchandise. However, he may soon need to find a new source of income. While the NBAA said it was working with the FAA to fill the gaps, a consultant who asked not to be identified because his company works with a company whose jets are targeted says there will likely be an effort lobbying to make it illegal to publish real-time data, regardless of how it is compiled.

An analogy would be that it is illegal to point lasers at airplanes because it creates a security issue. Industry executives say it’s not just about the safety of billionaires, but also about the staff who work at airports and private aviation facilities.


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