Wherever billionaires go, someone is probably watching.
This is why the space baron billionaire Elon Musk messaged the 19-year-old owner of a Twitter account that tracks the tech CEO's private jet, offering $5,000 to remove their account, according to an initial Wednesday report from Protocol, a tech news site.
And, bizarrely, upon learning that this location data was publicly available for all, Musk reportedly said air traffic control is primitive, which could mean he'd prefer to alter the system, rather than adapt.
Musk claims air traffic control is 'primitive'
Called the "Elon Musk's Jet" account on Twitter (@ElonJet), it monitors the movements of the billionaire's private jet via bots that are always monitoring air traffic data. In other words, this is public information, simply reposted to Twitter. Despite breaking no laws, the 19-year-old, named Jack Sweeney, received a message in the fall of 2021 at 12:13 AM EST, which read: "Can you take this down? It is a security risk", according to the report. Sweeney then responded: "Yes I can but it'll cost you a Model 3 only joking unless?" Musk retorted that he doesn't "love the idea of being shot by a nutcase".
Musk then offered to pay Sweeney $5,000 following a few back-and-forth exchanges, but Sweeney countered his offer: "Any chance to up that to $50k? It would be a great support in college and would possibly allow me to get a car maybe even a Model 3", reported Protocol. Musk reportedly then said he'd consider it, but as of writing, he had yet to reply either way. Sweeney had told Musk where he retrieved the data, but Musk replied: "Air traffic control is so primitive," according to the report, which did not specify whether the messages themselves were shared with Protocol. Of course, it's possible that Musk was just being flippant with this remark. It's also within the realm of possibility that Musk doesn't actually think that Air Traffic Control, which allows millions of travelers to fly safely every day, is "primitive." However, it's also possible that he was being serious.
Musk remains worth $240 billion
That's a worrisome remark from Musk. If in his mind, the reason air traffic control is primitive is that they share all civilian air traffic data publicly, instead of treating private jets differently than anyone else, this could be construed as anti-democratic. Often, other institutions implement more than one standard, depending on the financial situation of their constituents (some sorely needed, like welfare). But the more public institutions, services, and agencies partner and bend to the will of billionaires, the more stratified society might become.
On the other hand, Musk isn't entirely wrong about "security issues", which he tweeted about earlier this month. Everyone knows that Musk is one of the world's most prominent tech CEOs, with a personal net worth of more than $240 billion (as of Thursday), according to a Forbes report. With one of the largest sums of money at his disposal, there are other solutions that might be more effective, for Musk. Perhaps, instead of paying off anyone who dares to access public data and share it to Twitter, Musk could buy several private jets — so no one would know which one he's on. Of course, this is assuming his location isn't also tracked publicly. But there are those in the world who might act on negative sentiments about an extremely well-off CEO, and attempt some kind of mischief. Several private jets heading to multiple destinations could drastically reduce the likelihood that anyone would know which one he's on. And it could avoid the sticky issue of lifting the location of some more financially gifted passengers to an elevated status over the rest of us. But it's just a suggestion.