UCF student tracking Taylor Swift's private jet claps back after receiving cease and desist

by 24USATVFeb. 8, 2024, 7 a.m. 22
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Is bad blood brewing between Taylor Swift and a student at the University of Central Florida? She wants him to stop tracking her private jet, and he's making it clear that he has no intention of shaking it off.

The Washington Post was first to report this week that the "Anti-Hero" singer's legal team sent a cease and desist letter to Sweeney back in December threatening to "pursue any and all legal remedies" if he doesn't stop his "stalking and harassing behavior." The letter was sent because Swift's legal team thinks he has "no legitimate interest" in sharing private jet tracking information, the UCF student said in a statement to FOX 35.

That's "fundamentally incorrect," he said, adding that he actually likes some of the Grammy winning artist's songs.

"Her fans, who have grown the TaylorSwiftJets accounts and subreddit, are the ones truly interested. These tracking accounts consistently have more supporters and fans," Sweeney said. "When the Embassy of Japan in the USA expresses confidence that Swift can make a flight from Tokyo to the Super Bowl, it indicates public interest.

"Therefore, one should reasonably expect that their jet will be tracked, whether or not I’m the one doing it, as it is public information after all."

Sweeney took to X, formerly known as Twitter, on Wednesday to clear up some "misinformation" about his jet-tracking antics. He said he doesn't use tracking data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but uses Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) instead.

According to the FAA, ADS-B is a "performance–based surveillance technology that is more precise than radar."

How does it work? It combines "an aircraft’s positioning source, aircraft avionics, and a ground infrastructure to create an accurate surveillance interface between aircraft and (air traffic control)," according to the FAA.

Sweeney also made it a point to mention that The Washington Post's article was published days after Swift's private jet usage and hereby carbon emissions were criticized. Last week, FOX News cited a Reddit thread that said Swift's 40-minute, 164-mile trip from New Jersey to Baltimore cost $1,328 and produced three tons of CO2 emissions. In three months, the jet reportedly created 138 tons of emissions.

Swift's team has told media outlets in the past that her jet is often "loaned out," and all trips on the jet shouldn't be attributed to her, FOX News reports.

"These statements contradict each other, much like her team’s response to owning a single jet, which has only been true for the past two weeks," Sweeney said in his statement. "Her family has owned N898TS and N621MM for years, with ownership only changing recently.

"The claim of owning just one jet seems to be an attempt to downplay the family’s jet use. While this may be true now, it’s a recent development."

Sweeney went on to add that if "privacy and safety" are of importance to Swift and her legal team, they should register the jet to a trust instead of an LLC that is "clearly linked" to her.

"Don’t register the tail number as a resemblance to who you are," he said.

As a result of Swift's legal team's threats, the social media account he uses to share Swift's jet tracking information – @taylorswiftjets – has been suspended on Instagram, Threads and Facebook, Sweeney said.

"The accounts got suspended only hours after I received the letter from her team. This means Swift's team also sent threats to Meta, later apparently confirmed by insiders," Sweeney said, adding that the accounts tracking other famous faces – including Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, Jeff Bezos, Donald Trump, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg – are still up and running on Meta platforms.

Sweeney still tracks Musk's jet, too – but with a caveat that he posts the data 24 hours after he's reported to be in the air. This came after a feud between the two back in 2022.

The Tesla and X owner slid into Sweeney's DMs on what used to be Twitter, and offered him $5,000 to stop tracking his private jet. Sweeney turned it down, but ultimately decided to comply with the app's change in policy which required the delay of information.

: Taylor Swift has a song called 'Florida!!!" on her new album

As Swift vs. Sweeney made national headlines this week, Musk weighed in.

"Sweeney is an awful human being. Taylor Swift is right to be concerned," he said on X.

"Let's remember you offered me 5k to stop. Also threatened to sue me, and here we are a year later," Sweeney replied.

FOX 35 spoke to Sweeney three times in recent years, and two of these times were amid his clash with Musk. Sweeney tried to strike a deal with him after buying X, but no dice.

Last May, Sweeney began to track Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' jet.

"I think there's a lot to learn from people's flights. And like, if he flew somewhere that's out of the unusual, which I'm sure someone will find out (before me)," Sweeney told FOX 35 at the time. "But like, if he went somewhere, it might be to show that where he's announcing or something like that or anything related to their travels could be some kind of big deal also."

At the end of the day, Sweeney said he's not trying to cause harm, but he believes in the "importance of transparency and public information."

Stetson College of Law professor Catherine Cameron, an expert on the First Amendment, told FOX 35's sister station FOX 13 that she tends to agree with him.

"Although I sympathize with her desire to protect her own safety, I really struggle to know what extra information someone could get out of seeing her flight log," Cameron said. "Her schedule is pretty public, especially when she has concerts going on like she does right now. Or public appearances. It's known where she's going. I don't think it's a surprise."

FOX 35 has reached out to Taylor Swift's legal team, but no word back yet. Sweeney said in his statement that Swift's team has dodged his correspondence, too.

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