In a striking oversight, Elon Musk and his SpaceX team failed to properly implement privacy measures offered by an FAA program, which has allowed continued tracking of Musk’s private jet. Self-proclaimed “free speech advocate” Musk had previously banned a teenager from Twitter for running “@ElonJet,” an account that tracked his private jet’s flight activity.
Vice News reports that Elon Musk and his SpaceX team made a startling error by failing to properly implement privacy protections provided by a federal program, which allowed Musk’s private jet to continue to be tracked. This information was discovered in documents that Vice’s Motherboard acquired through a Freedom of Information Act.
The FAA ‘s Privacy ICAO Aircraft Address (PIA) program enables private jet owners to assign a temporary tail number to their aircraft, rendering it virtually untraceable by amateur flight trackers. Musk’s jet was enrolled in this program by SpaceX before August 2022, but due to an incorrect temporary tail number assignment, the plane could still be tracked using its real, permanent tail number.
The FAA and SpaceX exchanged emails in an effort to diagnose the problem. FAA senior systems engineer Jim Wright noted in one email to a SpaceX employee, “I just noticed that the latest PIA assigned to N628TS, A0FF08, was never verified. You did install and fly it one time on 8/20/22. Can you go to the PIA website and see if you can use that flight to verify?”
In December 2022, Musk banned the @ElonJet Twitter account and several journalists who shared links to this account as a result of the fallout from this oversight. The account was used to publish publicly available flight data for Musk’s jet, so its termination drew a lot of attention and criticism.
As Breitbart News previously reported:
The Wall Street Journal reports that Twitter has suspended the account @ElonJet which was created by Jack Sweeney, a student at the University of Central Florida, to use public data from plane transponders that log longitude, latitude, and altitude to track the flight path of Elon Musk’s private jet.
Sweeney confirmed the suspension of the account in a tweet from his personal account — which has now also been suspended — stating: “Well it appears @ElonJet is suspended.”
This move comes as a surprise given Musk’s previous statements. In a tweet just last month, Musk stated: “My commitment to free speech extends even to not banning the account following my plane, even though that is a direct personal safety risk.” It appears that Musk’s opinion has changed.
The fact that open-source flight trackers continue to display Musk’s plane’s flight paths under its real tail number suggests that SpaceX and Musk have not completely resolved their PIA program enrollment.
Additional temporary tail numbers for Musk’s aircraft are shown in FAA documents, but they are not yet visible on websites that provide free access to flight data. Despite the accessibility of privacy programs, it appears that some famous people have not yet fully utilized these offerings.
The FAA’s privacy programs might come under even more scrutiny as long as transparency remains a contentious issue among the wealthy and powerful. In response to these revelations, neither the FAA nor SpaceX have released an official statement.
Read more at Vice News here.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan
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