A teenager followed Elon Musk’s jet on Twitter. Then came the direct message.
Mr. Sweeney made a counter-offer to Mr. Musk, according to screenshots from the exchange, saying he would abandon the account if Mr. Musk raised the bet to $50,000. He said he would also accept a Tesla Model 3, an electric car that costs more than $38,000, adding that he was joking.
During the exchange, Mr Sweeney was asked how he was able to follow Mr Musk. He explained that he got the data from the plane’s transponder. When told that paying to shut down the Twitter account didn’t seem fair, Mr. Sweeney offered another proposition: How about an internship?
The exchange, which lasted more than a month, fell silent after January 23.
Mr. Sweeney played down the privacy and security concerns associated with his follower account for Mr. Musk, which has more than 305,000 followers.
“It’s a private jet, so it goes straight from jet to car,” he said, adding that he’s long had a fascination with aircraft tracking. “I don’t think it’s a big problem. Some people are just interested in seeing where it goes.
Mr Sweeney said he obtained the data for his aircraft tracking accounts from the ADS-B Exchange, which describes itself on its website as the world’s largest source of unfiltered flight data.
Dan Streufert, the founder of ADSBexchange.com LLC, said in an email Wednesday that anyone with basic electronics can get signals from planes broadcasting their locations. Information is also available by listening to air traffic controllers, he added.
“However, it’s important to note that our website tracks aircraft, not individuals,” Streufert said. “We can’t tell who is or isn’t on the plane. Mr. Musk’s companies own and operate many planes – this is just one of them. Mr. Musk may find Mr. Sweeney’s activities annoying, like those of the paparazzi, however, this information is already public from a myriad of sources.