Student Who Tracked Elon Musk’s Jet Blast Sells Flight-Tracking Site He Uses to Track Planes Jet-tracking student Jack Sweeney asks people to boycott ADS-B exchange is invoking.
Jetnet announced that it has bought the public flight-tracking site on Wednesday. Sweeney uses the site to share flight data on celebrities including Elon Musk and Donald Trump.
The college student who tracked Elon Musk’s jet says he is concerned the tracking software he uses to track celebrity planes could soon be taken away from the public after they are sold on Wednesday Is. Aviation data company Jetnet said on Wednesday it has bought ADS-B Exchange, a free website tracking thousands of commercial aircraft worldwide.
It is now unclear whether flight information on the ADS-B exchange will remain free to the public. Jack Sweeney, the 20-year-old student behind the @ElonJetNextDay account and other Twitter accounts tracking celebrity jets, said selling the company violates the spirit of the air enthusiast community that operates the site.
Dan Streifert, president and founder of ADS-B Exchange, said in a statement that the deal will meet the business needs of our users while maintaining our spirited roots and unfiltered data. He did not respond to a request for comment from the insider.
The plane-tracking company, which was founded in 2016, uses more than 9,000 volunteer-run radios, or feeders, to transmit data from ADS-B-equipped planes. ADS-B is a surveillance technology that transmits information such as GPS location and altitude from one aircraft to another and to ground stations.
The software was sold for an undisclosed amount. The website has been popularized by Sweeney, who attends the University of Central Florida. Sweeney uses ADS-B to follow some aircraft, such as those owned by Musk, Donald Trump and Taylor Swift. He then sets up bots to automatically upload his flights to Twitter.
Sweeney jabbed at Jetnet and StreetForge for the sale, saying the move undermines the point of building an ADS-B exchange in the first place. The whole premise of the organization was that it’s a community, he told Insider. Everyone is choosing to give their data to build a community server, not some private equity firm or company trying to make money.
A spokesperson for Jetnet did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication. Meanwhile, Sweeney is calling on feeders to boycott the platform, calling it a sad day. He said that he is looking for alternatives to the ADS-B exchange.
This isn’t the first challenge Sweeney has faced since opening his jet-tracking Twitter account. In early 2022, Musk offered him $5,000 to stop sharing the information, but the then-teenager went ahead and asked for $50,000. Elon Musk never followed through, Sweeney said.
Later, his accounts, including @ElonJet and @ZuccJet, were suspended in December after the billionaire took to Twitter in what Musk called the jet-tracking accounts a physical security breach. Twitter also updated its personal information policy to prevent users from sharing people’s live locations, and Sweeney began posting flight data with a 24-hour waiting period to comply with the social media site’s policies.
According to the FAA, public information sharing is legal, but there are some federal programs that can help block trackers, although the agency acknowledges that these are not silver bullets and can be mitigated through the ADS-B exchange.