Billionaires, annoyed by tracking their flights online

This practice is growing all over the world and is starting to seriously annoy senior Chinese officials, business tycoons and stars. Tracking billionaires’ private jets through websites or Twitter accounts that track air traffic in real time elicits skin reactions, from minor complaints to equipment confiscations.

Every year, Russian air cargo companies, Saudi plane owners or others ask Dan Struvert, founder of the American flight-tracking website ADS-B Exchange, to stop publishing their movements. without success.

Public and Legal Information Sources

We haven’t deleted anything yet. This is general information. I don’t want to be the arbiter of who’s right or wrong,” says Struvert. There are some limitations, but groups that reconstruct flight paths suggest that the primary source of information is legally available and accessible to anyone with the necessary equipment.

US law requires that aircraft in certain areas be equipped with an ADS-B satellite system, which periodically transmits the aircraft’s location to air traffic controllers. A site like Flightradar24 has 34,000 ground-based receivers around the world that can capture such signals and data sent to a central network and compare it to flight schedules and other aircraft information.

$5000 to bury a Twitter account

Determining the owner of the plane is a different matter, according to Jack Sweeney, 19, the creator of the “Celebrity Jets” Twitter account, which discovered Elon Musk’s private jet after a request to the archives.The US government is public. The head of Tesla offered him $5,000 to bury the “ElonJet” account of more than 480,000 subscribers, which tracks all the movements of the billionaire’s plane.

“He has a lot of interest, I’m doing something that works. People love to see what celebrities are doing, what they’re doing and what they emit,” Sweeney told AFP, referring to outrage at the carbon footprint of airplanes. He adds that posting that kind of information on Twitter It makes it “easy for people to access and understand”.

“Data already exists”

In July, the ‘Celebrity Jets’ account revealed that reality TV star Kylie Jenner boarded a private jet for a 17-minute flight to California causing an uproar on social media. “They’re telling us working class people feel guilty about our yearly trip on a much-needed vacation while these celebs fly private jets every day like they’re Uber,” one user tweeted angrily.

Neither Mr. Sweeney nor Mr. Struvert mentioned a red line they did not want to cross in terms of airline deployments. “The data is already there. I’m just redistributing it,” Jack Sweeney says. The business also generates income, even if it’s hard to value. Dan Struvert admits making a living this way, but declines to give details while Sweeney says private flight tracking accounts With it you earn about $100 a month.Flightradar24 doesn’t communicate when it’s spinning.

geopolitical consequences

Tracking flights could have a significant impact beyond the outrage of celebrities and billionaires, such as US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taiwan on Tuesday, which was followed by more than 700,000 people on Flightradar24 at the time of its landing.

In August, a report by a non-governmental organization accusing European border control agency Frontex of facilitating the forcible return of migrants trying to cross the perilous Mediterranean was based on data from ADS-B systems, as well as used by US media to denounce the presence. Survey trips during anti-racism demonstrations in Washington in 2020. Elsewhere in the world, governments have made it clear that these technologies and this type of data are not welcome.

Chinese state media reported in 2021 that the government confiscated hundreds of receivers used by real-time flight tracking sites, claiming there was a “spy” risk. “In a lot of cases, it’s authoritarian regimes that don’t like that kind of appearance,” Dan Struvert says.

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