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.
We haven’t deleted anything yet. This is general information. And I don’t want to be the arbiter of who’s right or wrong,” Dan Struvert explains. 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.
“People love to see what celebrities do”
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.
Determining the owner of the plane is another matter, according to Jack Sweeney, 19, founder of the Celebrity Jets Twitter account, who discovered Elon Musk’s private jet after a request for information from the US government’s public archives. The Tesla boss offered him $5,000 to bury the ElonJet account, 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, emissions stuff,” notes Jack Sweeney, referring to the anger over the carbon footprint of airplanes. He adds that posting this kind of information on Twitter 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 had 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 Jack Sweeney nor Dan Struvert has mentioned a red line he will not cross in terms of releasing flight paths. “The data is already there. I’m just redistributing it,” Jack Sweeney says.
This activity also generates income, even if it is difficult to value. Dan Struvert admits he makes a living this way but refuses to give details while Jack Sweeney asserts that his flight tracking accounts fetched him about $100 a month.
700,000 people watched Pelosi’s plane
Tracking flights can have a huge impact, as shown by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taiwan on Tuesday, whose flight was tracked by more than 700,000 people on the site.
In August, a report by a non-governmental organization accusing the European border control agency, Frontex, of facilitating the forcible return of migrants trying to cross the perilous Mediterranean Sea, was based on data from ADS-B systems, as well as used by US media to denounce the presence of surveillance flights during the demonstrations. Anti-racism in Washington in 2020.
In the letter, dozens of elected members of Congress urged the FBI and other government agencies such as the National Guard to “stop monitoring peaceful protesters.” Elsewhere in the world, governments have made it clear that these technologies and this type of data are not welcome.