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Taylor Swift demands university student stops tracking her private jet
8 February 2024, 09:34
The student was accused of effectively providing ‘individuals intent on harming’ the pop star a ‘roadmap to carry out their plans’.
Taylor Swift’s lawyers have threatened legal action against a Florida university student who uses public data and social media to track the private jets of billionaires, politicians and celebrities.
In late December, Ms Swift’s camp hit Jack Sweeney, a junior student studying information technology at the University of Central Florida, with a cease-and-desist letter that blamed his automated tracking of her private jet for tipping off stalkers as to her location.
In the letter, lawyers from the law firm Venable accused Mr Sweeney of effectively providing “individuals intent on harming her, or with nefarious or violent intentions, a roadmap to carry out their plans”.
Mr Sweeney provided the link to that letter in an email to The Associated Press.
In the message, he emphasised that while he never intended to cause harm, he also strongly believes in the importance of transparency and public information.
He wrote: “One should reasonably expect that their jet will be tracked, whether or not I’m the one doing it, as it is public information after all.”
A spokesperson for Ms Swift echoed the legal complaint, saying that “the timing of stalkers” suggests a connection to Mr Sweeney’s flight-tracking sites.
The spokesperson did not respond to questions seeking elaboration of that claim, such as whether stalkers have been seen waiting for Ms Swift at the airport when her plane arrived or, alternatively, if there is evidence that stalkers have somehow inferred Ms Swift’s subsequent location from the arrival time of her flight.
The legal letter likewise accuses Mr Sweeney of “disregarding the personal safety of others”; “wilful and repeated harassment of our client”; and “intentional, offensive, and outrageous conduct and consistent violations of our client’s privacy”.
Mr Sweeney says his automated tracking set-up repackages public flight data that private jets broadcast using a method called ADS-B; such broadcasts are required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), a US government agency.
Hobbyists have long collected this data for use in tracking aircraft flights without incident.
Nevertheless, the Venable lawyers have demanded that Mr Sweeney “immediately stop providing information about our client’s location to the public”.
At one point Mr Sweeney had more than 30 such accounts on Twitter, now known as X after Elon Musk purchased the site for 44 billion dollars (£34.8 billion) in 2022.
Mr Musk subsequently had his own dispute with Mr Sweeney, tweeting at one point that his commitment to free speech required him not to ban Mr Sweeney’s @elonjet account even though he considered it “a direct personal safety risk”.
But it was not long before Mr Musk backtracked and effectively banned the student from X, accusing Mr Sweeney of endangering his personal safety.