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.
“We haven’t removed anything yet. This is public information. And I don’t want to be the arbiter of who’s right or wrong,” says Don 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.
“People want to see what celebrities are up to”
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.
Identifying a plane’s owner is another matter, and Jack Sweeney, 19, creator of the Twitter account CelebrityJets, found Elon Musk’s private jet in the US government’s public archives. Tesla’s boss offered him $5,000 to bury the multi-billionaire’s 480,000-plus subscriber ElonJet account, which tracks all of his plane’s movements.
“He’s really interested, I’m doing something that works. People want to see what celebrities are doing, that and the emissions stuff,” says Jack Sweeney, referring to the outrage over the carbon footprint of airplanes. Posting this kind of information on Twitter, “it’s so easy for people to access and understand it. ” he adds.
“Data already exists”
In July, a popular Jets account caused a stir on social media after reality TV star Kylie Jenner took a private jet on a 17-minute flight to California. “When these celebs take private jets every day like Uber, they’re telling working class people to feel guilty for our annual flight on a much-needed vacation,” one user tweeted.
Neither Jack Sweeney nor Don Struffert mentioned a red line they didn’t cross when it came to publishing flight paths. “The data is already there. I just redistribute it,” says Jack Sweeney.
This activity generates income, although it is difficult to estimate. Don Struffert admits to making a living this way, but refuses to give details when Jack Sweeney claims his flight tracking accounts brought in $100 a month.
Pelosi’s flight was followed by 700,000 people
As US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taiwan on Tuesday showed, aerial surveillance can have a big impact. More than 700,000 people followed the flight on the Flightradar24 website.
In August, an NGO report based on data from ADS-B systems that accused European border watchdog Frontex of turning back migrants trying to make dangerous Mediterranean crossings was condemned, as was the US media. Surveillance planes during anti-racism protests in Washington in 2020.
Dozens of elected members of Congress urged the FBI and other government agencies, such as the National Guard, to “stop surveillance of peaceful protesters” after the revelations. Elsewhere in the world, governments have made it clear that these technologies and this type of data are not welcome.
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