Elon Musk offers teenager $5,000 to close Twitter bot that cleverly tracks his private jet, report claims

Mr Musk told creator Jack Sweeney that the account was a ‘security risk’ and he did not ‘love the idea of being shot by a nutcase’

Adam Smith
Friday 28 January 2022 18:54 GMT
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Elon Musk offered $5,000 to a 19-year-old if he took down a Twitter bot that tracked the movements of his private jet, a report has claimed.

The Tesla chief executive messaged Jack Sweeney, creator of @ElonJet, reportedly saying the account was a “security risk” because he did not “love the idea of being shot by a nutcase”.

Mr Sweeney told Protocol that he only made $20 per month from the account, but refused Mr Musk’s offer of $5,000 – instead increasing the price to $50,000.

“It would be great support in college and would possibly allow me to get a car maybe even a Model 3,” Mr Sweeney replied to Mr Musk, via Twitter direct messages.

Mr Musk has reportedly not replied to Mr Sweeney’s offer. The Twitter account has, as yet, not resulted in any incidents that have endangered Mr Musk.

The bot works by parsing data from the FAA, tweeting every time a chosen plane lands or takes off. Mr Sweeney has made similar accounts for the planes of Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.

Although Mr Musk’s plane is on the LADD block list, which removes identifying information, the bot can use a plane’s altitude and the time it takes to receive the data to calculate when it is flying or landing.

This can be cross-referenced with a database of airports to work out destination or departure – all using public data that could be used to track most private aircraft. Although the knowledge is not generally known, Mr Sweeney’s father works in the airline industry and he himself has been tracking planes since childhood.

“Air traffic control is so primitive,” Mr Musk commented when Mr Sweeney revealed how the process worked.

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