Celebrities could hide private jet flights from online tracking

President Joe Biden recently signed an FAA reauthorization bill that includes a provision on data privacy for private aircraft owners. The new law allows private plane owners to request that their data be withheld from public sites, fly under a temporary registration number to obscure their flight data, and block certain identifiable information from public dissemination, except for physical markings required by law.

This provision could potentially allow private jet owners, such as Elon Musk and Taylor Swift, to further cloak their travels from public view. Currently, these owners can opt for federal programs like the Limiting Aircraft Data Displayed (LADD) list and the Privacy ICAO address (PIA) to help shadow their aircraft. However, the new law may allow PIA applicants to travel internationally without having to swap out their PIA code when leaving the US.

Despite these efforts to enhance privacy for private aircraft owners, experts like tracking mogul Jack Sweeney caution that these measures may not fully disguise private aircraft. Software like ADS-B Exchange and context clues can still be used to track flights, even if information is withheld from public sites like FlightAware or FlightRadar24.

Aviation attorney Mark Dombroff sees the new law as a response to security concerns raised by celebrities like Musk. He believes that Congress is providing the FAA with a mandate to enhance safety measures, and it is up to the agency to find ways to achieve that goal.

In conclusion, the new data privacy provision for private aircraft owners aims to enhance their privacy and security. However, it may not completely prevent tracking of private jets, as other tracking methods and context clues can still be utilized. The FAA will need to work on fine-tuning the availability and use of information to address these concerns.


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