- Jack Sweeney, 19, runs a Twitter account that tracks Elon Musk’s private jet.
- Musk offered Sweeney $5,000 to remove it and give advice on how to make his jet less trackable.
- Sweeney told Insider he thought $5,000 was too low for the satisfaction he gets from the work.
A 19-year-old who was offered $5,000 by Elon Musk to shut down a Twitter account tracking the billionaire’s jet told Insider he refused the offer because it wasn’t enough to replace the satisfaction he gets from running the account.
Protocol first reported last week that Musk had approached Jack Sweeney via private messages on Twitter. The DMs, a screenshot of which Sweeney shared with Insider, showed that Musk asked him to take down the account, called Elon Musk’s Jet, saying it was a “security risk.”
Musk had said in a tweet earlier this month that social-media accounts discussing his whereabouts were “becoming a security issue.”
Sweeney discussed with Musk how his bots were able to track the jet and gave technical advice on how the billionaire could make his jet less trackable.
“How about $5k for this account and generally helping make it harder for crazy people to track me?” Musk asked.
Sweeney responded: “Sounds doable, account and all my help. Any chance to up that to $50K?”
Sweeney cited college funding and told the billionaire the money could go toward buying a Tesla Model 3.
“I’ve done a lot of work on this and 5k is not enough,” Sweeney said in an interview with Insider. He added that $5,000 wasn’t enough to replace “the fun I have in this, working on it.”
In the messages that Insider viewed, Musk said he would think about Sweeney’s counteroffer, then later said it “doesn’t feel right to pay to shut this down.”
Musk did not respond when contacted for comment by Insider.
Sweeney told Insider that Musk appeared to have implemented some of his technical advice, using a blocking system that changes his jet’s identifier and makes it harder to track.
“I just have to work around it,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney told Insider he decided to go public with Musk’s offer because the billionaire had lost interest in a deal.
“He went the opposite way of me, so why wouldn’t I go the opposite way of him?” he said.
Sweeney started the Elon Musk’s Jet account in June 2020. It uses bots to scrape publicly available air-traffic data, alerting followers to the movements of Musk’s private jet.
He said he had been working on the technology behind the account a few months before he launched it as a lockdown project.
Sweeney said he had the idea because he was a fan of Musk’s. “I knew he had the jet, and I just knew it would reveal what business is going on and where he is going and stuff,” he said.
Sweeney said his father works in aviation, sparking an interest in planes. “I had the apps where you can track planes and stuff,” Sweeney said, adding, “I kind of thought they were cool.”
While at college, Sweeney has a part-time job working for a company called UberJets, where he builds a platform to help track chartered flights so the company can find clients cheaper seats, he said. He added that his work on the Elon Musk’s Jet account is on his GitHub, meaning he can showcase it to employers.