Billionaires and executives are outraged by their private jets being tracked online

How to annoy both Elon Musk and Kylie Jenner, senior Chinese officials? Track Their private jets. Sites and Twitter accounts that follow air traffic in real time can trigger rash reactions, from simple complaints to confiscation of equipment.

Every year Russian airfreight companies ask Saudi aircraft owners or others to stop publishing their movements, says Dan Streufert, founder of the US aircraft surveillance platform ADS-B Exchange. without success.

General data

“We haven’t removed anything yet. This is public information. And I don’t want to be the arbiter of who is right or wrong.” Dan Struffert explains.

There are some limitations, but flight path reconstruction groups point out that the primary source of information is legally available and accessible to anyone with the necessary equipment.

US law requires aircraft in certain areas to be equipped with an ADS-B satellite system that periodically radios the aircraft’s position to air traffic controllers.

A site like Flightradar24 There are 34,000 ground receivers around the world that can pick up such signals, send the data to a central network and cross-reference it with flight schedules and other flight information.

19-year-old identifies Elon Musk’s jet

According to Jack Sweeney, 19, who created the Twitter account, successfully identifying the plane’s owner is another matter. Famous Jets, Inventor of Elon Musk’s private jet After a US government public records request for information.

Tesla’s boss gave him $5,000 ElonjetWith over 480,000 subscribers, it follows the multi-billionaire’s every move.

“The Matter of Emissions”

“He’s really interested, I’m doing something that works. People want to see what celebrities are doing, that and things around the show.”Jack Sweeney notes, noting the furore over the carbon footprint of airplanes.

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Twitter allows people to post this kind of information “Make it easy to access and understand”He adds.

“Private Jets Are Like Uber”

In July, the account Famous Jets Reality TV star Kylie Jenner’s 17-minute flight to California on a private jet caused a stir on social media.

“When these celebrities ride private jets like Uber every day, they’re telling us working-class people to feel guilty about our annual flight on a much-needed vacation.” tweeted one outraged user.

What are the red lines?

Neither Jack Sweeney nor Don Struffert mentioned a red line they were unwilling to cross with regard to publishing flight paths.

“Data already exists. I’m redistributing them”Jack Sweeney says.

This activity generates income, although it is difficult to estimate. Don Struffert admits to making a living this way, but refuses to give details when Jack Sweeney claims his flight tracking accounts brought in $100 a month. Flightradar24 was not contacted about its turnover.

A strategic impact

Flight tracking could have a bigger impact beyond the ire of celebrities and billionaires, with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taiwan on Tuesday drawing more than 700,000 followers on the Flightradar24 site when her plane landed.

In August, an NGO report based on data from ADS-B systems that accused European border watchdog Frontex of turning back migrants trying to make dangerous Mediterranean crossings was condemned, as was the US media. Surveillance planes during anti-racism protests in Washington in 2020.

Dozens of elected members of Congress urged the FBI and other government agencies, such as the National Guard, in a letter after the revelations. “Stop Surveilling Peaceful Protesters”.

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China condemns “spying”.

Elsewhere in the world, governments have made it clear that these technologies and this type of data are not welcome.

Chinese state media reported in 2021 that the government had seized hundreds of receivers used by real-time flight tracking platforms under the guise of danger. “spy”.

“Many times, it’s the authoritarian regimes that don’t like this kind of view.”asserts Dan Struefert.

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