Taylor Swift: Can She Sue the College Student Tracking Her Private Jet?

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Tuesday, it came to light that Jack Sweeney, a junior at the University of Central Florida, has been warned with legal action by Taylor Swift’s lawyers for posting on social media about when Swift’s personal jet took off and landed.

Sweeney has been in the news before for similar reasons. He has several long-running accounts that he uses to watch the publicly available flight information of the private planes and helicopters of many famous people and billionaires. In 2022, Sweeney and Elon Musk almost went to court on Twitter (now X) because Sweeney’s account, @ElonJet, was banned for following Elon Musk’s private planes around.

Taylor Swift: Can She Sue the College Student Tracking Her Private Jet?
Taylor Swift: Can She Sue the College Student Tracking Her Private Jet?

(Unfazed, Sweeney brought the account back to life as @ElonJetNextDay, which posts updates about Musk’s jet action at least 24 hours later to follow the rules of the website.)No matter if you think Sweeney is Swift’s David or Goliath in this case, the legal threat makes for some interesting conversation: Is Sweeney’s following allowed? Or does Swift’s team have a point? If not technically, then morally. To get answers, Slate talked to Ryan Calo, a law and information science professor at the University of Washington. Calo has already said something about Sweeney’s fight with Musk. This talk has been cut down and edited to make it clearer.

For more information, see The Washington Post. In the letter telling Sweeney to stop, Taylor Swift’s lawyers say that Sweeney’s social media posts have caused Swift “direct and irreparable harm, as well as emotional and physical distress.” There is also a story that Swift’s lawyers say there is “no legitimate interest in or public need for this information, other than to stalk, harass, and exert dominion and control.” If that’s true, then why is this information about flights available to everyone in the first place?Calo Ryan: To begin, I don’t think the information is open to the public, which means that anyone can use it to bother, stalk, picture, etc. celebrities like Elon Musk or Taylor Swift.

 

Taylor Swift: Can She Sue the College Student Tracking Her Private Jet?
Taylor Swift: Can She Sue the College Student Tracking Her Private Jet?

That kind of information is usually made public by the Federal Aviation Administration to improve safety and openness, so it’s funny if it makes famous people feel less safe. I agree with them. If you’re not trying to see Taylor Swift or take pictures of her for a magazine as paparazzi, there’s no reason to follow her around. Taylor Swift is going to be the target of some pretty scary people because she is a woman and has a lot of fame.It’s not a secret if the FAA info is really open to the public.

What you said, though, was a hint that there are people out there who are trying to figure out where her plane is going. It’s possible that that is a secret fact. But even if that were true, publishing a private fact means you did it on purpose—it is an intended tort, and in tort law, intent means you know for sure you did it. Now you might be wondering why the lawyers are using the words they are; they might be trying to show that this is very likely to hurt her, especially after telling him that. but the problem is that your behavior still has to be crazy. If all he’s doing is using information from the FAA website or from other people, it’s hard to say that what he’s doing is outrageous.

The FAA does let plane owners ask for their activities to be hidden from government records; according to the Post, “Swift’s jet appears to be blocked through such a request.” To get their own data, so-called “aviation hobbyists” can use widely available transmitters that can pick up transponder and air traffic signals and then enter it into websites like ADS-B Exchange that aren’t controlled by the FAA. Does the fact that Sweeney is getting his information from a third party instead of the FAA change the rights he has?

That being said, I agree with them on a moral and public policy level, but I can’t think of a good reason to take action. They don’t have a problem; they just want you to stop. There are words being used that make it sound like he might be legally responsible for this. I don’t see it though. Someone might do something because of “publication of private fact.” Some people believe that publishing a private fact means putting something out there that only you know about and not most people.

However, you have to do it on purpose to hurt someone. They are not lying about her, so what is happening is not defamatory. The goal of the revelation is not to plot a crime or help with another crime like stalking. I’m not sure why he’s doing it, but there are probably a lot of reasons, such as wanting to be open and honest or being concerned about carbon footprints. You could have that information available for a lot of different reasons. There’s no reason for me to think that this young man is doing it on purpose to help someone watch her or hide something else they are doing.Someone would carefully recreate her position by using a website that copies FAA data but is not responsible to them.

Taylor Swift: Can She Sue the College Student Tracking Her Private Jet?
Taylor Swift: Can She Sue the College Student Tracking Her Private Jet?

This makes me think of the big problem with juveniles in the criminal justice system. Many times, they will have their criminal records erased so that the state databases no longer show that they were convicted. However, data brokers who have copied that public information are not usually forced to delete it. When public data is copied to other places that aren’t bound by the same rules as the original source, even if the source of the data wants to hide something about it, I think that’s a big problem for privacy. But I think it’s really hard to get that information taken away once it’s out in the open, especially if it’s about a very popular person. This is because under tort or criminal law, you’re allowing someone else to do something wrong. Yes, it would be illegal if you looked through all of her data to find a way to sneak up on her and take a picture of her, which is against California law for reporters, or if you used that data to stalk her. Saying “Oh well, it’s public information” is not an argument. You made a mistake. But this kid isn’t doing that.

Also read:https://www.aazkanews.com/poll-1-in-3-republicans-suspect-unsubstantiated-taylor-swift-election-conspiracy/


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