Teen wants $50,000 to stop tracking Elon Musk’s private jet

The question is whether Elon will pay him.

POOL New / reuters

Earlier this week, 19-year-old Jack Sweeney won a bit of internet fame when Protocol published a story about one of his Twitter bots. The college student maintains ElonJet, a tracker that tweets out when Elon Musk’s private jet takes off and lands. Sweeney has several other such bots that use publicly available air traffic data to follow the private planes of celebrities like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos. However, with 180,000 followers and counting, the ElonJet account is by far Sweeney’s most famous creation. And it’s that popularity that attracted none other than Elon Musk to the bot.

Last fall, the entrepreneur contacted Sweeney about ElonJet. “Can you take this down? It is a security risk,” he said, according to Protocol. Musk told Sweeney he would give him $5,000 to delete the account and keep “crazy people” from finding out his whereabouts. Sweeney made a counteroffer. “Any chance to up that to $50k? It would be great support in college and would possibly allow me to get a car maybe even a Model 3.”

Musk told him he would think about it, but the two haven’t spoken since. At the time, Sweeney told Protocol he wasn’t bothered by Musk ghosting him. His work on ElonJet had taught him how to code and landed him a part-time job with a company called UberJets. Plus, as a self-proclaimed fan, he got to share a conversation with one of his idols.

Now the teen seems to have changed his tune. In a new interview with Business Insider, he said he decided to go public with Musk’s offer after the billionaire seemingly lost interest in cutting a deal. "He went the opposite way of me, so why wouldn't I go the opposite way of him?" he asked the publication. "I've done a lot of work on this and $5,000 is not enough," Sweeney said. He told Business Insider the initial offer wouldn’t replace the “fun” he’s had working on the bot.

It doesn’t seem like Musk has any interest in negotiating with Sweeney. Following their initial conversation, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO implemented some of the technical advice Sweeney gave him to make his jet harder to track. At the time, Musk reportedly also told Sweeney it didn’t “feel right to pay to shut this down.” He probably has a point.