September 28, 2022

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Billionaires are annoyed by tracking their flights online

This practice is growing around the world and is beginning to seriously disturb Chinese senior officials, business leaders and stars. Track the private jets of billionaires Thanks to sites or Twitter accounts that follow air traffic in real time, it provokes epidermal reactions, from simple complaints to the seizure of equipment.

Every year Russian airfreight companies ask Saudi aircraft owners or others to stop publishing their movements, says Dan Streufert, founder of the US aircraft surveillance platform ADS-B Exchange. without success.

Public and Legal Information Sources

“We haven’t removed anything yet. This is public information. And I don’t want to be the arbiter of who is right or wrong,” says Struffert. There are some limitations, but flight path reconstruction groups point out that the primary source of information is legally available and accessible to anyone with the necessary equipment.

US law requires aircraft in certain areas to be equipped with an ADS-B satellite system that periodically radios the aircraft’s position to air traffic controllers. A site like Flightradar24 has 34,000 ground receivers around the world that can pick up such signals, send the data to a central network and cross-reference it with flight schedules and other flight information.

$5,000 to bury a Twitter account

Identifying a plane’s owner is another matter, according to 19-year-old Jack Sweeney, creator of the “Celebrity Jets” Twitter account, who tracked down the private jet.Elon Musk After the information was requested to the public archives of the United States government. Tesla’s boss offered him 5,000 dollars to bury the “ElonJet” account, which has more than 480,000 subscribers who follow all the movements of the multi-billionaire’s plane.

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“He’s really interested, I’m doing something that works. People want to see what celebrities are doing, that and the emissions stuff,” Sweeney told AFP, referring to the outrage over the carbon footprint of airplanes. Posting this kind of information on Twitter “makes it more accessible and understandable to people.” Easy,” he adds.

“Data already exists”

In July, the “Celebrity Jets” account revealed it Reality star Kylie Jenner The 17-minute flight to California on a private jet caused a stir on social media. “They tell us working-class people to feel guilty about our annual theft of a much-needed vacation. When these celebrities take private jets Like an Uber every two days,” tweeted an outraged internet user.

Mr. Sweeney or Mr. Strufford didn’t specify a red line they didn’t want to cross in terms of releasing flight paths. “The data is already there. I’m redistributing it,” says Jack Sweeney. The operation is generating income, though it’s hard to estimate. Dan Struefert admits to making a living this way, but Mr Sweeney declines to give details, saying his flight tracking accounts earn about $100 a month. Flightradar24’s turnover Not contacted.

Geopolitical implications

Air surveillance can also have a big impact Beyond the rage of celebrities And billionaires, as shown Controversial visit of the Speaker of the House of Representatives American Nancy Pelosi had more than 700,000 followers on the FlyRadar24 site by the time her flight landed in Taiwan on Tuesday.

In August, an NGO report that accused the European border watchdog Frontex of turning back migrants trying to make dangerous Mediterranean crossings was based on data from ADS-B systems. Surveillance planes during anti-racism protests in Washington in 2020. Elsewhere in the world, governments have made it clear that these technologies and this type of data are not welcome.

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In 2021 Chinese state media reported that the government had seized hundreds of receivers used by real-time flight tracking platforms, citing a “spying” risk. “In many cases, authoritarian regimes don’t like this kind of visibility,” says Dan Struffert.