The plane-spotting student who enrages Elon Musk and Taylor Swift

A Florida university student has developed a practice of getting under the skin of some of the wealthiest and most influential individuals on the planet. How? by disclosing to the rest of us the location and carbon emissions of their private aircraft. Jack Sweeney has some clarifications to make. He believes Taylor Swift has some catchy songs, to start. Nevertheless, he feels that everyone should be able to know where her private plane is going and how frequently it travels, even in the face of legal action. “I like to be fair,” he emailed the BBC. “I try to share everyone’s info no matter who it is.”


However, it is precisely the details about wealthy and influential people’s private aircraft locations that he has shared on social media that have frequently resulted in press coverage and legal threats for the 21-year-old. Mr. Sweeney was raised in the Orlando suburbs and is the son of an airline maintenance operations controller and a teacher. He claims that he has always been interested in technology and aviation, especially Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Tesla businesses. His pursuit of these interests eventually led him to create social media profiles and the website, which tracks the planes of prominent figures in the world of business, politics, and Russian oligarchs.


The method is based on openly accessible data that hobbyists have gathered. Aircraft in the sky periodically transmit signals that provide their location, which people on the ground can receive using low-cost receivers. This growing group of online plane trackers is a part of the broader Osint (open-source intelligence) community, which is made up of individuals who comb through vast amounts of publicly accessible internet data in search of illuminating, thought-provoking, or just plain fascinating bits of information. The group is made up of a variety of people, from ardent investigative journalists and researchers to people who are just moderately inquisitive.

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