Where’s Elon? Teen IT Whiz Offered Big Money To Shelve Flight-Tracking Site


A 19-year-old Florida college student has raised a ruckus over his social media account that broadcast position data on billionaire Elon Musk’s Gulfstream G650ER. Like many aircraft, Musk’s Gulfstream is blocked from the popular flight-tracking sites, but that proved little impediment to tech whiz Jack Sweeney, who set up a Twitter account to alert up to 130,000 subscribers of the real-time whereabouts of Musk’s aircraft. The entrepreneur’s wealth is listed as $267 billion.

Musk reportedly offered the teen $5,000 last fall to take the site offline, but Sweeney demurred, asking for another zero in front of the offer’s decimal point, or, perhaps, a luxury car in exchange—though he did admit that he was joking “… unless?” Musk said that offering more money did not “feel right,” and appealed to a sense of doing-the-right-thing, citing Sweeney’s activity as a “security risk” and messaging the teen, “I don’t love the idea of being shot by a nutcase.”

To his credit, Sweeney said he’d rather have an internship offer from Musk than cash. But when he received a job offer with a jet charter firm in Orlando, Sweeney admitted that he was already working in IT for a competitor. “I’m on an NDA [non-disclosure agreement], so I can’t really take it,” he said.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Wow, if I only knew right now where “Elon” is, my life would be complete.

    Are there not more important things?

  2. Musk is concerned about being “shot by a nutcase.” I wonder how the kid would feel about getting repeatedly… “mugged?” Yeah, let’s call it “mugged”. It could happen for a couple of zeroes shy of $5000.

  3. I’m sure there’s plenty of criticism that could be leveled at Elon Musk for things he has said and done, but the idea that he’s being extorted by some clever college kid just ain’t right. The kid may indeed be a tech whiz but he obviously has no ethical compass.

    • Actually, as billionaire public figures go, IMHO Musk has a pretty good history. He lives quite modestly considering his assets (which he amassed in a reasonably socially benign fashion), and his objective of committing some of it on steps toward extending our species’ existence within this universe is difficult for me to fault.

      As far as those who applaud the kid, either publicly or silently in their own minds, I would apply the “no ethical compass” to them also. Imagine their reaction should someone start following them everywhere they went and posting it on Facebook.

  4. Interesting headline. I’m pretty sure that $5000 is not “big money” to most owners of jet aircraft. Certainly not for Elon, and apparently not for the college kid either. Hmm.

  5. I would trade Elon for a warm glass of piss.

    I have no respect for the man and believe him to be despicable.

    I hate his cars too.

    With that said, I’d also not want to be tracked, but it’s not as if he didn’t promote this with his arrogant behavior.

    There are several websites that publicize public information regarding his whereabouts and where his jet is. This kid broke no laws and did not provide information otherwise not commonly available.

    If he was as smart as he thinks he is, he would have cut the kid a better deal than a zillionth of his daily income.

    • Oh geez. What was it about your Tesla that made you hate it so much? And despicable because he is now offering 300mbps down in the boonies with a simple 10 minute automatic setup for only $99/month? How dare he!

  6. Elon is indeed polarizing. Many seem to revile him because he has confidence. Confidence gleaned over time through taking risks that, so far, no one even wanted to take. This is a rare commodity in this doubling thumbing, screen glued, virtual realty society. To me, its refreshing to see someone actually producing a variety of products, providing services that are cutting edge, consistent in performance, while doing what no one else does…or can do. This makes Elon the center of wrath from many with only keyboard courage to offer. He has dealt with failure, yet learns from his mistakes, which is the process of refinement to take any idea from conception to reality. Note: Not virtual reality. This success, including making a profit (not a dirty word) is what sets him apart. He has put it all on the line numerous times re-investing back into his company to move into the next idea frontier. I am glad his companies are generating a profit. There is nothing wrong getting rich developing products and services people, including our government, wants.

    Elon is a very smart marketing person. He knows how to put his name, his companies, his ideas, out in front of the media. So, Elon calls out a teen for doing what he knows to do for his 15 minutes of fame, throwing out a $5000 prize to cease and desist from his flight tracking and subsequent FB publishing. And the bandwidth is ablaze with all sorts of coverage…for free.

    I agree with several other commenters that the teen really does not have an ethical compass. The news is filled daily with all sorts of nut-cases willing to take other people’s lives for a whole lot less. I think Elon has a genuine concern about his potential safety considering he could easily be cannon fodder for the next demented person looking for “glory”. Any one of us with our ADS-B equipped airplanes can be identified just as easily as Elon. If we had the net worth, the visibility, and the where with all to be as successful, we too would feel likewise. We are simply not worth it. Elon is.