By Paulina Cachero and Sophie Alexander
Taylor Swift’s attorneys have threatened legal action against a college student who tracks the private jet trips of the pop star and other rich and famous people.
“You have engaged in stalking and harassing behavior, including consistently publishing real-time and precise information about our client’s location,” a lawyer with Venable LLP said in a December 22 letter to student Jack Sweeney, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg. “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.”
Sweeney, 21, who attends the University of Central Florida, uses publicly available data from the Federal Aviation Administration to track the private jets of the ultra-wealthy, including politicians, celebrities, billionaires, Russian oligarchs and other public figures, along with estimates of their carbon emissions.
“You should have a decent expectation that your jet will be tracked whether or not I do it,” Sweeney said in a statement. “After all it is public information.”
Swift’s globetrotting has drawn increased scrutiny on social media in recent months, with commentators emphasizing the amount of carbon her private jet emits. She topped the list of biggest carbon dioxide polluters in 2022, emitting almost 8,300 tons — or about 1,100 times more than the average person emits annually, according to a study by digital sustainability consultancy Yard.
The Grammy-winning singer is scheduled to perform four shows this week in Tokyo and is expected to be in Las Vegas Sunday to watch her boyfriend, Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce, play in the Super Bowl. The route, which would include traveling 19,400 miles on a Dassault Falcon 900LX, one of Swift’s jets, could release more than 100 additional tons of carbon dioxide, the Associated Press reported.
“Before the tour kicked off, Taylor purchased more than double the carbon credits needed to offset all of her travel,” a spokesperson for Swift said in a statement.
Katie Morrone, the Venable attorney who drafted the letter on Swift’s behalf, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Swift’s letter was reported earlier by the Washington Post.
Sweeney contends that he doesn’t post any details about Swift other than the cities she travels to, which, he says, is already well known by anyone following her recent billion-dollar tour and her regular and well-publicized attendance at Chiefs games this season.
James Slater, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation who’s representing Sweeney, called Swift’s legal claims baseless and said they were raised around the time news outlets began writing about the carbon emissions from her private jet.
“It seems the letters are an effort to quash negative publicity over her emissions,” Slater said, adding he hasn’t heard back from Swift’s lawyers.
Sweeney has faced off with powerful figures over his online tracking website before. He clashed with Elon Musk over the viral @ElonJet account on X, formerly Twitter, which tracked the billionaire’s global travel by private plane. After acquiring the social media platform, Musk suspended Sweeney’s accounts in late 2022, igniting heated debates over free speech.
“This event is eerily similar to December 2022 when Musk tweeted he would take legal action against me, after he claimed someone had come after him,” Sweeney said in the statement, referring to Musk’s claims that it led to a stalker trailing his infant son. Police later said they could find no link between Sweeney’s posts and the incident with Musk’s child.
Musk has also come under scrutiny recently for the impact his private jet travel has on the environment. In 2022 alone, he flew 307,568 miles, emitting around 2,100 tons of carbon dioxide, according to a Bloomberg analysis.