Off the height of her ongoing Eras Tour, Taylor Swift has taken issue with the work of university student Jack Sweeney and his private jet-tracking social media accounts. Sweeney had already come under fire for his work when something similar happened with the tracking of Elon Musk’s jets.
According to Swift and her legal team, reporting her jets’ flights is dangerous and almost amounts to stalking. But to Sweeney, what he’s doing is nothing more than making publicly available data easier to read.
And then there’s the fact that tracking private flights allows fans to realize just how much their stars contribute to global pollution. This would potentially make Sweeney’s work a public service.
What does Jack Sweeney’s report say?
Taylor Swift Jets (Tracking) is the name of the automated social media accounts available on BlueSky, Telegram, Mastodon, and Nostr. Similar services are available on Reddit through r/TaylorSwiftJets and on X, although the reports of this last one are delayed by 24 hours.
Along with the information on takeoffs and landings of Swift’s private jets N898TS and N621MM, the accounts report the amount of CO2 produced by those private jets during each flight.
For example, these accounts revealed that, in December 2023, Swift’s jets took 11 flights, covering 9.674 miles and producing about 84 tons of CO2.
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Private jets and pollution
Private jet flights are notorious polluters. On top of that, they are often unnecessary. Even pop stars can arrange their touring schedule in a more sensible way, as recently demonstrated by Coldplay.
The CO2 emissions of private flights aren’t just high, they’re also caused by a minuscule number of people. About one in 125,000 American people owns a private jet. Nonetheless, in 2020, private jets polluted as much as all buses active in the country. And the problem might be getting worse: In Europe, between 2020 and 2022, the number of private jet flights almost doubled.
The richest seem to be most responsible for pollution outside of transportation, too. A recent study found that the top 10% income households in the US generate 40% of the country’s emissions.
Tailor Swift’s letter to Jack Sweeney
In December 2023, Jack Sweeney, a student at the University of Central Florida, received a cease-and-desist letter from Tailor Swift’s lawyers. According to the letter, Sweeney’s reportage on Swift’s private jet flights has caused the pop star “direct and irreparable harm, as well as emotional and physical distress.”
The letter continues by stating that there is “no legitimate interest in or public need for this information, other than to stalk, harass, and exert dominion and control.” Sweeney refutes this framing, arguing that the information he shares is already publicly available. But transforming the publicly available data on plane flights into readable maps isn’t for everyone, which is why those jet tracking accounts exist.
Sweeney also points out that the letter came following strong public criticism of Swift’s jet use after her private flights produced 138 tons of CO2 in just three months. For comparison, that comes out to about 150 times the CO2 emitted per person on a New York to London flight.
James Slater, a lawyer specialized in speech and civil rights issues, responded to the letter on account of Sweeney. In his view, Sweeney’s social media accounts only report on publicly available information. This information is shared by planes using ADS-B signals and then collected by a network of enthusiasts.
“There’s no claim to just publicizing public information,” Slater told NBC, concluding that Taylor Swift’s lawyers “didn’t address any real claims” in the letter.
This isn’t the first time someone took issue with Sweeney’s work. In 2022, Elon Musk attempted to stop the account reporting his private jet flights by offering Sweeny $5.000 before attempting to sue. Ultimately, the “ElonJet” account was banned from Musk’s X before coming back as “ElonJet but Delayed.” This is fundamentally the same service but with information shared only 24 hours after the fact. ElonJet is still active on other social media.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: A Falcon 900 private jet. Featured Photo Credit: Yuri G.