Who is Jack Sweeney? Elon Musk offered teen $5K to delete flight tracking Twitter account
Exchanging messages via Instagram DMs with one of the richest people in the world is not exactly the typical 19-year-old thing to do. However, college freshman Jack Sweeney seems to have turned the tables on that matter. As first reported by Protocol, Sweeney initially received a Twitter DM from the CEO of Tesla earlier last Fall. The message said: “Can you take this down? It is a security risk.”
Sweeney, who had received the text message at 12:13 am, responded the next morning with a text saying “Yes I can but it’ll cost you a Model 3 only joking unless?”. Sweeney had designed a Twitter flight tracking bot by the name @ElonJet. This account is specifically geared toward tracking the whereabouts of Elon Musk's jets. @ElonJets currently has a whopping 106K followers.
Took off from Hawthorne, Elon got PIA blocking program but already found the aircraft. pic.twitter.com/nOxNUxy5y5— Elon Musk's Jet (@ElonJet) January 26, 2022
Apart from @ElonJet, Sweeney has a total of 15 accounts that are all “programmed to parse the data and tweet every time a chosen plane takes off or lands.” The targets of these other bots are also high-profile figures in the tech world and billionaires like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. However impressive the project might sound, the idea of a Twitter bot tracking Musk's flight patterns and activity was a cause of concern for the Tesla founder. “I don’t love the idea of being shot by a nutcase,” he told Sweeney over DM.
Musk has been vocal about the dangers of his travel schedule being made public, particularly for his and his family's safety. In fact, this month itself a Twitter user declared that he would no longer be posting Musk’s travel schedules and plans in order “to keep Elon and his family safe,” to which Musk responded by calling it a “security issue.”
The course of conversation between Musk and Sweeney eventually pivoted toward business where Elon Musk offered Sweeney $5,000 to delete the account. The account alone was bringing Sweeney about $20,000 a month for income. In response, Sweeney pushed for a better deal and asked if there was “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 Model 3.”. The conversation seemed to have reached a pause but Sweeney reportedly messaged the Tesla CEO on January 26, Wednesday telling Musk that he would actually prefer an internship with Tesla over the cash payout, but Musk probably hasn't seen it yet.
Sweeney's work, however, is legal and does not breach any kind of security directly. The bots use information that is publicly available from the FAA. The account also clarified in one of their tweets that "We track the plane not who may or may not be onboard."