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This Twitter bot tracks the movements of Russian oligarchs' private jets

March 01, 2022
3 min read
This Twitter bot tracks the movements of Russian oligarchs' private jets
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As pressure increases on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, a new tool is tracking the movements of the oligarchs who hold significant power in Vladimir Putin's Russia.

That comes from college student Jack Sweeney, who famously created the ElonJet Twitter account that tracks Elon Musk's private jet and then refused to accept a small bribe from the multi-billionaire to shut it down. Now, he's out with a new bot that tracks the private jets of 21 oligarchs — wealthy, powerful Russian businesspeople.

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Russian Oligarch Jets (@RUOligarchJets) was created this week and already has nearly 150,000 Twitter followers. While there is no guarantee that the oligarch is on board these aircraft at any given time, it does tweet out the departures and arrivals of each of these aircraft globally, as long as there is ADS-B Exchange coverage.

ADS-B stands for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast and is a tracking system where aircraft broadcast over public airways their altitude, position and other data that is derived from onboard systems. Because ADS-B is using public airwaves and is a public, or open protocol, hobbyists are able to easily receive the ADS-B signals that are transmitted from aircraft. Using small, inexpensive equipment like an antenna and a Raspberry Pi microcomputer, ADS-B signals can be received and decoded. Many also use these systems to then send the ADS-B data that they receive to popular flight tracking websites such as FlightAware and Flightradar24. “Feeders,” as they are often known, receive a complimentary enterprise-level paid account in return for sharing their data.

More: Sorry, Elon Musk. Your Gulfstream can’t be fully untrackable

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In Sweeny's case, he uses data from an open-source flight-tracking website, ADS-B Exchange. The big difference between this website and the commercial flight tracking websites is that ADS-B Exchange doesn't block any aircraft from view, while the commercial websites do honor the so-called block lists that exist at the Federal Aviation Administration and elsewhere. In the case of ElonJet, Sweeney said on Twitter that he was able to evade another privacy system that Musk had deployed. It's unclear if Sweeney is using similar tactics for this new account; TPG reached out to him for comment but has not yet heard back.

The bot currently tracks the following oligarchs and their jets:

The increased scrutiny on oligarchs comes as the world's opinion has galvanized for Ukraine and against Russia's invasion. That Sweeney's effort has gained much attention in such little time shows the level to which the world is engaging with the ongoing developments in Ukraine. If you'd like to support Ukraine, TPG has assembled a guide of organizations accepting donations.

Featured image by Papas Dos
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
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  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees