Jet-tracking teen Jack Sweeney stopped tweeting Mark Cuban flights
If you want Jack Sweeney to stop publicly tracking your private jet on Twitter, take a leaf out of Mark Cuban’s book and offer the 19-year-old something better than money: friendship.
Sweeney, a sophomore at the University of Central Florida, is the teenager responsible for 30 automated Twitter accounts that collectively track the flights of hundreds of celebrities, politicians and billionaires — from Elon Musk and Kylie Jenner to a string of Russian oligarchs. And since he started his side hustle in June 2020, he says he’s only agreed to one “stop tracking me” request.
In a February direct message on Twitter, Cuban asked Sweeney to deactivate the @MCubansJets in exchange for his friendship and business advice, according to screenshots reviewed by CNBC Make It. “He said, ‘I’m going to be your friend,’ and I asked if I could meet him at a basketball game,” Sweeney, 19, tells CNBC Make It.
Sweeney says the pair held talks in May — in the virtual exchange, Cuban said he would like to meet Sweeney at a Dallas Mavericks game next season — before the deal was finalized. Sweeney appears to have held up his end: The account, which he designed as an auto-updating bot, hasn’t tweeted since April, and its bio says its code has been disabled.
Cuba declined CNBC Make It’s request for comment.
It seems Sweeney’s loyalty comes at a price, and friendship may be worth more than some billionaires are willing to pay: In January, Musk offered Sweeney $5,000 to stop tweeting about private planes. Sweeney refused and instead asked for $50,000. The account tracking Musk’s flights, @ElonJet, is still active and has more than 479,000 Twitter followers.
By comparison, Sweeney’s @MCubansJets account has only approximately 3,300 followers. Sweeney says that made it easier for him to accept Cuba’s removal request: It was a no-brainer to give up a less popular account in exchange for free networks.
Both Cuban and Musk expressed personal safety concerns about tracking the flight, Sweeney says, but he doesn’t see that as a compelling reason: His code only uses publicly available information from websites like the ADS-B Exchange, which shows the location, altitude and speed of the transmission. They send, transmits. by any federally regulated aircraft
And, Sweeney adds, celebrities aren’t usually particular about owning a private jet in the first place. “People have private planes, they put all these pictures on them,” he says. “It’s not a secret.”
Sweeney says only one other person, attorney Grant Cardone, a venture capitalist, has asked him to stop tracking the flight. The Cuban-like request was made in a direct message on Twitter, according to screenshots reviewed by CNBC Make It. And like @MCubansJets, the @CardoneJet account doesn’t have many followers: currently less than 2,000.
However, @CardoneJet is still active on Twitter. Sweeney says he never responded to the lawyer’s request.
Sweeney says he hopes to eventually monetize his Twitter accounts, possibly by turning his personal website into an all-in-one celebrity flight tracker or finding a way to offer carbon offsets for some of the flights he tracks. But for now, he adds, he only plans to increase the number of flights the code can access.
“[I’m motivated] Because people are still really interested in it.”
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