Florida student Jack Sweeney threatened with legal action by Taylor Swift, over location tracking of her private jet
Jack Sweeney, the 21 year old University of Central Florida student who famously clashed with Elon Musk, is being threatened with legal action by a well known musician.
According to the Washington Post, attorneys for the singer Taylor Swift have threatened to sue Jack Sweeney, who famously runs the social media accounts that track the private jet flights of celebrities and high profile figures including billionaires, politicians and even Russian Oligarchs.
Sweeney has for years run social media accounts that log the takeoffs and landings of these planes and helicopters, along with providing estimates of their carbon emissions.
The accounts use publicly available data from the Federal Aviation Administration and volunteer hobbyists who can track the aircraft via the signals they broadcast.
But his location tracking has upset some, and Sweeney famously clashed with free speech absolutist Elon Musk in 2022, after he said the accounts such as @ElonJet were his “assassination coordinates.”
It should be noted that Sweeney’s accounts don’t mention who travels on the aircraft or where they go once the planes land.
According to the Washington Post, Taylor Swift’s attorney at the Washington law firm Venable wrote Sweeney in December a cease-and-desist letter, stating that Swift would “have no choice but to pursue any and all legal remedies” if he did not stop his “stalking and harassing behaviour.”
According to the letter from lawyer, Katie Wright Morrone, Sweeney’s accounts had caused Swift and her family “direct and irreparable harm, as well as emotional and physical distress,” and had heightened her “constant state of fear for her personal safety.”
The letter was reportedly sent to the home of Sweeney’s parents.
Sweeney shared the letter with The Washington Post.
“While this may be a game to you, or an avenue that you hope will earn you wealth or fame, it is a life-or-death matter for our Client,” Morrone reportedly wrote.
The lawyer reportedly added that there is “no legitimate interest in or public need for this information, other than to stalk, harass, and exert dominion and control.”
Taylor Swift has routinely faced stalkers showing up outside her homes, Morrone wrote, and one man now faces stalking and harassment charges after being arrested last month outside her townhouse in Manhattan.
Asked whether Swift’s representatives knew of any evidence that stalkers had used the jet-tracking accounts, Tree Paine, a spokeswoman for Swift, reportedly said: “We cannot comment on any ongoing police investigation but can confirm the timing of stalkers suggests a connection. His posts tell you exactly when and where she would be.”
Taylor Swift was recently at the centre of AI-generated explicit images, which resulted in X (formerly Twitter) blocking searches related to Taylor Swift on its platform.
But Jack Sweeney has hit back and told the Washington Post that he viewed the letter as an attempt to scare him away from sharing public data.
He pointed out the accounts offer only an incomplete summary of which cities Taylor Swift might be in, similar to the public schedules for her concerts or any NFL games she might attend.
And the letters, he added, were sent to him at a time when she faced criticism over her flights’ environmental effects.
“This information is already out there,” he said. “Her team thinks they can control the world.”
But Sweeney is facing some pushback after he told the Washington Post, that around the time of the December letter, Facebook and Instagram disabled the accounts he had created to track Swift’s air travel, saying they broke the platforms’ privacy rules.
Elon Musk clash
Sweeney has previously clashed with Elon Musk in 2022 over the Twitter bot @ElonJet that used publicly available data to track the movements of Elon Musk’s Gulfstream private jet, and posted real-time updates of its location on Twitter.
Musk in early February 2022 had sent Sweeney a number of DMs (direct messages), in which Musk asked Sweeney to take down the tracking bot, saying he didn’t “love the idea of being shot by a nutcase.”
When Sweeney has made public the messages, Musk then offered Sweeney $5,000 to take down the account.
But the college student suggested that a larger payout.
“Any chance to up that to $50K? It would be great support in college and would possibly allow me to get a car, maybe even a [Tesla] Model 3,” Sweeney replied to Musk.
Musk however said it didn’t feel right “to pay to shut this down” and he then blocked Sweeney, but the student noted that Musk had followed his technical advice, after he told the billionaire about a blocking program he could use to counter flight tracking programs.
In early November 2022, shortly after he acquired Twitter for $44 billion, Musk claimed he was such a staunch advocate for free speech that he would not ban the plane tracking account, despite him calling it a “direct personal safety risk.”
But in December 2022 Twitter suspended the account tracking Elon Musk’s private jet in real-time.