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Teen tracking Elon Musk’s private jet turns down $5,000, demands $50,000 instead

By Monica Athnasious

Jan 31, 2022

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Thanks to a Protocol report from earlier this week, a 19-year-old has catapulted into immense internet popularity. The teenager in question is Jack Sweeney, and his claim to fame is a Twitter account that tracks and reports the movements of Elon Musk’s private jet. Among his many accounts, all run by bots Sweeney’s programmed to track the flights of several billionaires, @ElonJet is by far the most popular creation—with over 200,000 followers and counting. According to Engadget, the teen’s other accounts follow the private whereabouts of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates.

It is this huge information heist  that caught the attention of none other than Musk himself. “Can you take this down? It is a security risk,” the billionaire wrote in a DM to Sweeney. The conversation continued with Musk offering the 19-year-old $5,000 to shut the account down, “How about $5k for this account and generally helping make it harder for crazy people to track me?” Sweeney made a counteroffer, “Any chance to up that to $50k? It would be great support in college and possibly allow me to get a car, maybe even a Model 3.”

Musk’s concerns about the “security risk” it posed to his safety led the ElonJet creator to tell the billionaire just how he was doing it. CNN Business, who were also able to view the messages, reported that Sweeney offered the SpaceX founder technical advice on how to block flight tracking programs. “It looks like he took that advice,” the teen told the publication. That’s not stopping him, however, as he revealed he was still able to track the flights: “I am. It’s just a bit more complicated.”

Following the $50,000 proposal, it is said that Musk has since ‘ghosted’ him, which Sweeney took no offence to at the time, telling Protocol on 26 January he was still a fan. He explained that the experience with running ElonJet had equipped him with coding skills that helped him secure a part-time job with the company UberJets. The last message sent from the teen, which Musk hasn’t opened yet, was when the ‘ghosting’ occurred. According to Protocol, Sweeney followed up with a request for an internship in lieu of payment. Not offended, he stated, “I think he’s on vacay in Hawaii if you check ElonJet.”

However, thanks to a more recent interview with Business Insider from 30 January, it seems that the teenager’s tune has changed. “He went the opposite way of me, so why wouldn’t I go the opposite way of him,” the 19-year-old told the publication as to why he went public about the offer.

One of Musk’s messages to Sweeney, seen by Business Insider, was curtain calls for any deal to be made, stating it “doesn’t feel right to pay to shut this down.” In the same interview, the teenager explained how $5,000 just wasn’t enough to counter the “fun” he has while managing and running the account. It looks very unlikely that Musk will participate in the deal and has instead opted to use Sweeney’s technical advice against him. And it looks like he needs it… Does anyone remember the German teen who hacked 25 Tesla cars across 13 different countries?