Here we go again. Jack Sweeney, a University of Central Florida student who shot to fame with an X/Twitter account that tracked the private jet of Elon Musk has now drawn the ire of Taylor Swift’s battalion of lawyers for the same thing.
Sweeney is a programmer whose jet-tracking previously rankled Musk, so much so that it led the billionaire at one point to ominously describe Sweeney’s sharing of public fight data as tantamount to disseminating potential “assassination coordinates.” Swift’s lawyers, meanwhile, haven’t gone that far; they have, however, sent Sweeney a cease-and-desist letter that lamented Sweeney’s sharing of publicly available FAA data as “stalking and harassing behavior,” which has caused the Grammy winner “direct and irreparable harm, as well as emotional and physical distress.”
The letter goes on to declare that there’s “no legitimate interest in or public need for this information, other than to stalk, harass, and exert dominion and control.” And therein lies the rub.
Sweeney, whose X account shares data on a 24-hour delay to satisfy any real-time safety concerns, uses public data. It’s already out there, in other words. Moreover, as a public figure, Sweeney has contended in remarks to The Washington Post that Taylor, herself, also makes it clear when she will be somewhere — such as when she releases her tour schedule, or when she shows up to a Kansas City Chiefs game to support her boyfriend, Travis Kelce.
“This information is already out there,” he said. “Her team thinks they can control the world.”
That, as an aside, is quite true; Swift is such a managed product at this point that even her most minor asides, comments, and interactions seem calculated down to the smallest detail. But that’s neither here nor there. All this really boils down to is a cut-and-dried flap over protected speech. An attorney for Sweeney has responded accordingly to the Swift team’s letter, arguing that his client is “engaged in protected speech that does not violate any of Ms. Swift’s legal rights.”
In a statement (per WaPo), Slater also added: “This isn’t about putting a GPS tracker on someone and invading their privacy. It’s using public information to track the jet of a public figure. This is their means to try to quash a PR issue and bully my client to have the bad coverage die down.”
This kind of fight, by the way, also isn’t anything new when it comes to Taylor. As her wealth and star power have grown (to the point that Biden’s team is now heavily courting her to publicly support the president’s re-election), she increasingly uses that power to crack down on anything and anyone who threatens to pierce the bubble of her carefully crafted public image — like the time her team sued her ex-guitar teacher after he set up a website with the domain ITaughtTaylorSwift.com.