“Can you stop this? This is a security threat,” said Elon Musk, who began speaking to 19-year-old Jack Sweeney via private Twitter messages last fall, referring to an account on a social network called Tweet embedwho tracks the movement of his private plane around the world.
It was a late night message that arrived at 00:13 Sweeney time, but the new student wasn’t asleep. However, his response came about seven hours later: “Yes, I can, but will a Model 3 cost you if I’m not kidding?”
Sweeney is one of 15 flight-tracking accounts created by Sweeney, which is controlled by a bot programmed to analyze data and tweets each time the selected plane takes off or lands. Each follows a famous man from the tech world, including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. But mask tracker is by far the most popular, with nearly 118,000 subscribers.
The popularity of the account appears to be afraid of the mask. “I don’t like the idea of being crazy,” he told Sweeney in an exclusive Twitter interview.
The conversation continued with many messages. Musk asked Sweeney how much he earns on Twitter accounts, and he said they don’t earn more than $20 a month. Then Elon Musk made his own proposal: $5,000 to delete the account and help the billionaire prevent “lunatics” from tracking his whereabouts. Sweeney told Musk to add another zero. “Is there a chance of getting that up to $50,000? That would be a huge boost in college and would probably allow me to buy a car, maybe even a Model 3.”
Musk said he would think about it. But he hasn’t paid Sweeney a penny yet, and the Twitter bot is still up and running. According to the man, he benefited a lot from ElonJet and other accounts: subscribers on social networks, learned programming and even got a part-time job at UberJets as an application developer. Even better, the “fan” of Ilona Musk, as he called himself, was able to connect with the man who had been following him for many years.
Although the Twitter bots haven’t yet led to any serious incidents, at least according to Sweeney’s knowledge and information, Musk is really right. Celebrities are often ambushed by fans, people who want to sell autographs, paparazzi and airport stalkers. Musk and other tech CEOs have become real celebrities in recent years.
But Twitter bots don’t do anything great. They just pulled the data Sweeney pointed out. 15 robots use FAA information, if available – the US Federal Aviation Administration monitors when and where planes take off and land, as well as their intended course. However, the mask level and many others are in the LADD lock list, which removes identifying information from the data.
However, even hidden planes aren’t really private. In these cases, Sweeney used the ADS-B transceiver data available on most aircraft, which shows their position in the air in real time, as shown on the ADS-B exchange. Analyzing this information is like a logical puzzle: Sweeney’s robots can use an aircraft’s altitude, along with the time the data was acquired, to determine when it took off or landed. They can then link the latitude and longitude to the airport’s database to determine where the plane is taking off or heading.
Once Sweeney showed Musk where he was finding the data, the businessman was amazed at how easy it was to access it. “Air traffic control is very rudimentary,” he said. The latest private exchange between Mask and Sweeney happened last week, when the man wrote that he’d rather have an internship than pay to delete an account. Sweeney says Musk didn’t open the letter, but he didn’t get upset.