Taylor Swift is one of the most decorated musicians of all time. Since the beginning of her career, she’s sold more than 13 million albums and won over 800 major musical awards. She’s set the record for winning four Grammy awards for album of the year (2008, 2015, 2022, 2024). Her versatility in terms of artistry, songwriting, and entrepreneurship has vastly influenced the music industry and popular culture.
However, being a celebrity of her caliber can have its problems. Like other superstars, her life, both public and private, is subject to widespread media coverage and, with it, public opinion. What people think of her music is one thing. But when everything from her mental health to her relationships has become fodder for the world, it’s quite another.
And speaking of being fodder for the world…
You may recall Jack Sweeney, the computer programmer who created a program that could track the locations of celebrities’ private jets. Using air traffic data from public data sources such as the Federal Aviation Administration, OpenSky Network, and Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast, he shares the locations of private jets owned by Jeff Bezos, Kim Kardashian, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Drake, and other “rich and famous” people.
Elon Musk was one of the people who didn’t appreciate being “followed” by Sweeney’s bots and actively tried to have him stopped, first by bribery, then by banning him on Twitter (after he bought the social media company), and then via legal threats.
Swift, who is also followed by Sweeney, is apparently taking a page from Musk’s playbook. Since December 2023, her lawyers have sent Sweeney, now a junior at the University of Central Florida, several cease-and-desist letters.
According to the Washington Post, the letters have suggested that Sweeney caused Swift and her family “direct and irreparable harm, as well as emotional and physical distress,” and had worsened the performer’s “constant state of fear for her personal safety.”
“While this may be a game to you, or an avenue that you hope will earn you wealth or fame, it is a life-or-death matter for our client,” one of Swift’s lawyers wrote, according to WaPo. “[There is] no legitimate interest in or public need for this information, other than to stalk, harass, and exert dominion and control.”
Sweeney’s not impressed.
Sweeney also says that Swift’s team’s claims that there is no “legitimate interest” in sharing jet information “is fundamentally incorrect.”
“When the Embassy of Japan in the [U.S.] expresses confidence that Swift can make a flight from Tokyo to the Super Bowl, it indicates public interest,” Sweeney said in a text to the Orlando Sentinel. “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.”
“My intentions are not to cause harm,” Sweeney said. “But I believe in the importance of transparency and public information.”
Transparency and public information indeed. According to WaPo, Sweeney’s various accounts were cited in a 2022 study that estimated Swift was the “biggest celebrity [carbon dioxide] polluter” of the year (at the time, Swift’s publicist said the analysis was “blatantly incorrect” because the jet was often loaned to other people). The topic was brought up again in December 2023 (cough – right when Sweeney got his first cease-and-desist from Swift’s lawyers – cough), when Swift was regularly flying between concerts to spend time with her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
So this isn’t the first time Swift has had “plane problems.”
Going back to her current issues with her private jet, Sweeney suggests that if Swift wants total privacy, she and her team should register the plane to a trust, and not a family-controlled company. He’s unperturbed about the letters from Swift’s lawyers and is going to (wait for it) shake it off.
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