Jack Sweeney VS Elon Musk

Josh L
7 min readFeb 13, 2022

A modern David and Goliath story

Photo by Jakob Rosen on Unsplash

19-year-old tech-savvy superstar Jack Sweeney has been causing quite a stir lately.

In case you haven’t heard, Sweeney built a tracker that is able to locate Elon Musk’s personal jet (more on how this works later). The Tesla CEO slid in the DM’s a few weeks ago. He offered Sweeney an offer that he could refuse.

He offered Sweeney $5,000 to take the tracker down. The 19-year-old asked for $50,000.

This interaction caught a lot of interest. Is Sweeney being selfish? Is Musk being cheap? Who’s right and who’s wrong?

On a side note, you have to appreciate the internet. It’s the only place where a young college student could ask one of the richest men in the world for $50,000 in order for him to stop doing something the billionaire doesn’t like.

Now, let’s get into the specifics of the story.

The Background

Jack Sweeney is a college student in Florida. His father works in the airline industry, and Sweeney has always been interested in aviation.

He created @ElonJet on Twitter, which currently has 370,000 followers. The account is able to track the movements of Elon Musk’s private jet. It’s able to tell when he takes off and when he lands. It can also track its location.

When Musk found out, he messaged Sweeney on Twiter by saying, “Can you take it down? It’s a security risk.”

Sweeney replied, “Yes I can but it’ll cost you a Model 3 only joking unless?”

“I don’t love the idea of being shot by a nutcase,” Musk responded.

Musk then asked how much he made off the account to which Sweeney replied “no more than $20 a month.”

It was at this point that Musk offered him $5,000 to take it down. Sweeney replied, “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.”

Here is where some reports differ. Some say that Sweeny later retracted the 50k buyout and instead asked for an internship. Others say he only asked for the $50,000.

It is also worth mentioning that the account has gained an immense amount of followers. With this comes more money. It’s safe to say Sweeney is making much more than $20 a month now.

How it Works

Sweeney gets the information he needs 100% legally. Nothing he does is illegal. Anyone with the right set of skills could do exactly what he is.

Here’s how it works in simple terms. It’s so simple even I can understand it (for the most part).

He created 15 bots that use information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This information includes when planes take off and where they are going and departing from. All of this is open to the public.

However, Musk and other high-profile people are on the Limiting Aircraft Data Displayed (LADD) block list. People may request to be added to this list to limit their tracking information online.

To get around this, Sweeney uses ADS-B transponders and the ADS-B exchange. It gathers an aircraft's altitude, longitude and latitude, and other information. It then cross-references it with other information from the FAA and elsewhere to determine the aircraft’s destination.

Using this method, Sweeney can still track what time Musk’s jet lands, takes off, where he is and where it looks like he’s going.

Photo by Oskar Kadaksoo on Unsplash

People on both sides are passionate as to why Sweeney should/shouldn’t take the tracker down.

So, here we are. Let’s see why people believe he should take it down.

Why the Tracker Should be Destroyed

Reason #1

The most obvious reason is the security issue. There are crazy people out there who may want to harm Musk or his family. Using the tracker, it would not be hard for them to follow his movements.

Musk has recently beefed up security since the tracker has gained in popularity. It concerns him a great deal and rightfully so. With all his money comes a constant fear of people trying to sue him or kidnap him or his family for ransom.

There are also people out there who may want to follow him around or harass him. They may not want to cause any harm, but it’s still weird enough to cause concern.

Reason #2

The second reason is that he offered Sweeney $5,000 when he didn’t have to offer anything. Musk could have gone a number of different routes to get him to take it down.

He is a powerful man with a lot of influence. He could easily have threatened to sue the 19-year-old or have lawyers reach out to Sweeney in order to intimidate him.

He probably has the power to call up Jack Dorsey or other Twitter elites and asked them to delete his account. If they can delete the account of former President Trump, they can delete Sweeney’s.

They could use the same reason. It is a security issue and violates Twitter’s terms of use.

Instead, he talked to the kid directly and offered him $5,000. I know this is nothing for Musk, but to a college kid, it’s a lot.

If that was me, I would be thinking no more Ramen Noddles for a while.

He instead asks for $50,000. Musk probably feels like the kid is trying to extort him. With all the attention on this, I’m sure asking for more pissed him off.

Reason #3

Money and legality aside, is what Sweeny’s doing moral? He knows what he’s doing could be potentially harmful. How would he feel if someone did attack Musk or his family and used his tracker to do it?

Before the popularity came, I understand the tracker would be a cool thing to build. And since he’s good with technology, he wants to work with it.

But now that the track can cause real-life harm, he continues to promote it. In fact, he has said that he plans on working on similar trackers for other celebrities. One of them is for Drake’s mega jet.

@ElonJet did its job. Sweeney gained fame and was even offered an internship at a private charter flight firm. His creation did him good. It might be time to end it.

Then again, maybe Jack Sweeney sees the limitless potential here. I like to play Devil’s advocate, so if you were Team Musk, make sure to keep reading.

Why Sweeney Needs to Continue

Reason #1

Sweeney designed something that people like. He can name whatever price he wants Musk to pay. Like any other product in life, the rules are simple.

Sweeney is doing something Musk doesn’t like. In order for Sweeney to stop, Musk needs to meet his price.

Having a net worth of 238.6 billion dollars, I’m sure losing $50,000 isn't a big deal. Musk could have easily paid this right away and the problem would be solved. Both sides would get what they want.

Have Sweeney sign a contract saying once the transaction is complete, the tracker will come down. If he tries to ask for more after or doesn't listen, then take legal action.

It’s pride that is preventing Musk from paying and Sweeney knows it. He is taking advantage of the situation. Good for him.

Reason #2

Sweeney is not being immoral. He owes absolutely nothing to Elon Musk. As stated earlier, everything he is doing is legal. Anyone could have done this or already have been doing it in private.

Maybe Musk should be thanking Sweeney for finding this security issue. If Musk was worried about his security, maybe he should just pay what Sweeny asked.

Since he didn’t, maybe he should stop trying to bully the little guy. This has been going on for weeks. Clearly, Musk is not too concerned about this tracker.

Sweeney is not bowing to the all-mighty 1% of America. He saw an opportunity and seized it. Who wouldn’t have done the same in his position?

He has a chance to make real money for the real and honest work he has produced. $5,000 is nice, but it can also be viewed as a slap in the face. This doesn’t sound immoral to me. Pay the man what he wants, and you get what you want. Simple.

Reason #3

As mentioned earlier, This whole situation is opening up doors for Sweeney. Stratos Jet Charters has offered him an internship. I’m sure there will be more to follow.

He’s being interviewed by various shows and podcasts. There is a lot of buzz for the college kid fighting Goliath. And true to the story, he is winning.

All because he stood up for himself and his creation. He could turn this idea into a life-changing business.

If he can create this for other celebrities, maybe one of them will offer him the kind of money he is seeking. He can create a great opportunity for himself and his family. Who wouldn’t want that?

The Current Situation

Talks between the two have stalled. The Twitter account is still up and running and gaining more followers by the day.

Sweeney said he will continue running the tracker and will work on building others as well. He is taking requests on which celebrities he should track.

What do you think? Is Sweeney or Musk in the right? Are they both wrong?

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