Sweeney said he was falling asleep when his Android phone rang at 00:19 on November 30. He was in his bedroom, where several posters for SpaceX, Musk’s space exploration company, hung on the wall above his bed. The photo Posted on Sweeney’s personal Twitter account.
Based on screenshots from the exchange, Sweeney made a counteroffer to Musk, telling him that he would leave the account if Musk raised the offer to $50,000. He said he was also willing to accept the Tesla Model 3, an electric car worth over $38,000, adding that he was joking.
During the exchange, Sweeney was asked how he managed to track down Musk. He explained that he received data from the aircraft’s transponder. When told that paying him to close his Twitter account didn’t sound like a good idea, Sweeney had another suggestion: how about an internship?
The exchange, which lasted more than a month, fell silent after January 23.
Sweeney downplayed the privacy and security concerns associated with his Musk tracking account, which has over 305,000 followers.
“It’s a private plane, so it goes straight from the plane to the car,” he said, adding that he has long been into tracking aircraft. “I don’t think it’s that big of an issue. Some people are just curious to see where it goes.”
Sweeney said he got the data for his aircraft tracking accounts from the ADS-B Exchange, which describes itself on its website as the world’s largest source of unfiltered flight data.
Dan Streufert, founder of ADSBexchange.com LLC, said in an email Wednesday that anyone with basic electronic equipment can receive signals from aircraft that broadcast their location. He added that information is also available by listening to air traffic controllers.