A college student who refused $5,000 (roughly Rs. 3.75 lakh) from tech tycoon Elon Musk to stop tracking his private plane is now planning to target more billionaires. Jack Sweeney, 19, likely believes what he began as a hobby has the potential to become a lucrative venture for him. Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, had contacted Sweeney with the $5,000-offer in November last year to dissuade him from tracking his jet because of concerns about his personal safety. But the teenager asked for $50,000 (roughly Rs. 37.5 lakh) or at least an internship opportunity to stop tracking the plane.
The deal did not work out and Musk stopped responding to Sweeney’s direct messages on Twitter. But Sweeney still hopes Musk will return to the negotiation table. In the meantime, he has decided to make more money by launching Ground Control, which monitors the planes of other high-profile people, including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.
Sweeney told Bloomberg that flight-tracking companies make millions in revenue every year and that just a little portion of what they earned would be a good source of income for him.
But there are privacy and legal concerns about mining this kind of information and putting it in public in real-time. Experts warn there could be legal ramifications for Sweeney. However, several companies have been offering private and corporate aviation intelligence to their clients to give them a heads up about the business plans of their rivals. The movements of business leaders can provide clues about their business activities. To trick these bots and their clients or for safety reasons, some business leaders sometimes send their jets without them.
Even Musk previously said he doesn’t want to get “shot by a nutcase” so he had asked Sweeney to stop the bot — @ElonJet — tracking his plane. Sweeney asked Musk for $50,000, saying it would cover his school fees and help buy a car, possibly a Tesla Model 3. He told Bloomberg: “The amount of time and dedication I have put into it is cool — like, 5,000 isn’t enough to drop it.”