The fascination of tracking – Il Post

Last Tuesday the well-known Swedish site for tracking aircraft in flight Flightradar24 he did know than the one on which the speaker of the US House Nancy Pelosi had just traveled, for a wait and discussed visit to Taiwan, was the most followed flight ever on the site. A total of 708,000 people witnessed the plane’s landing in real time and 2.92 million followed at least part of the 7-hour flight that carried the US speaker from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Taipei.

It is not the first time that Flightradar24, a tool widely used by ordinary people as well as by professionals, becomes part of the media narrative relating to sensational events or which concern, even marginally, the transport sector. Last February 24 it was used, for example, to show the absence of air traffic on Ukraine immediately after the Russian invasion began. And Flightradar24 has been for years one of the first sites that are usually consulted following the disappearance or toculling of a flight.

Following the movements of a vehicle in real time is a trend evidently made possible by the improvement of technology and tools that allow today to continuously identify the position of an object in the world, an operation known as tracking. And it is possible to assume that behind this trend there is a general and increased interest in this type of practice, increasingly widespread as the spread of digital devices capable of transmitting and receiving signals for air, land and sea navigation increases.

The journalist of the Guardian Wilfred Chan he wrote that among those who followed Pelosi’s flight there were understandably many Taiwanese people, who stayed up late. And he pointed out that people stayed “tuned” to Flightradar24 to follow the landing of Pelosi’s plane were about three times the number that followed him in prime time on TV on the CNN: enough to send temporarily down the site itself.

In the recent past, a large number of people have used real-time tracking services on many occasions, helping to make it a piece of the story told from time to time and an index of the interest and attention that that story was able to generate. . Flightradar24 follow the movements of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny from Omsk to the Charité hospital in Berlin after the poisoning, in August 2020, and then also his flight back to Moscow, following by about 500 thousand people. Many also used the site for to follow the chaotic evacuation of the United States from Afghanistan, in August 2021.

The familiarity of people with these services and the awareness of how popular their use has become is also attested by some occasional maneuvers by the pilots themselves, who at times attract different attentions using atypical flight routes: because those routes, observed through services such as Flightradar24become words or drawings.

On February 17, shortly before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and in the face of growing tensions between the two countries, a plane of the Moldovan company Air Moldova took off from the airport of the capital Chișinău flight for an hour and 40 minutes and returned to the same departure airport. View through Flightradar24the flight path followed by the plane traced the word “relax”.

According to Ian Petchenik, communications director of Flightradar24Part of the appeal of collectively following a certain medium in motion lies in being able to “participate in the story in real time.” Tracking data has virtually no delay, he said Petchenik al Guardianand this sense of immediacy is also one of the reasons why the consultation of the site also lends itself a lot to being commented on by people on social networks.

Another notable use of the site occurs, according to Petchenik, during market sessions in the sports arena. As the deadline for the transfer of players from one team to another approaches, the attention of fans and fans grows, who are able to discover the flight on which a certain player is traveling and follow his / her movements to obtain indications. useful to understand where he will play or maybe when he will arrive in the city where he is already expected.

Flight tracking services rely on a technology called ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast) and available to the public. It allows airplanes to detect their geographical position via satellite positioning systems and to transmit it to anyone with a receiver. To configure one, you can also use cheap kits, which over time has allowed Flightradar24 to extend its network from a couple of receivers in Sweden in 2007, the year the service was founded, to over 30,000 around the world.

To improve the efficiency of the network, Flightradar24 integrates data from its receivers with data from other sources, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US agency that deals with aviation safety and controls. And that implies accepting FAA rules that allow aircraft owners to request that their information be removed from public websites. It is the reason why Flightradar24 shows some flights anonymously, without the possibility of identification.

– Read also: How do you land an airplane without knowing how to fly it?

A lesser known tracking service that has recently gained a lot of popularity should not follow these confidentiality rules: ADS-B Exchange. Founded in 2016 by Dan Streufert, a US professional in the IT (information technology) sector, the site uses no FAA data and relies entirely on information gleaned from a network of approximately 9,000 ADS-B receivers operated in total. the world by volunteers and aviation enthusiasts.

ADS-B Exchange has therefore become a reference point for users who wish to have information on flights that someone might have an interest in not making public. Using the data from the service, a 19-year-old US boy recently realized a program that automatically publishes the flight paths of famous people such as Elon Musk And Bill Gates.

This same kind of curiosity and use of ADS-B Exchange data is the basis of the account’s Twitter publications Celebrity Jets, which tracks the duration of flights taken by famous people’s private jets. Many have been associated with this information in recent weeks controversy on social networks about the use of these flights considered excessive by many, causing greenhouse gas emissions that would therefore be easily avoidable.

Sites such as ADS-B Exchange, according to Steufert, should not have any responsibility for the use that users make of them. “We don’t interpret the data, we leave it at the disposal of journalists, media, researchers or anyone else, so that they can interpret what that data could mean,” she told the Guardian.

– Read also: How polluting are celebrity private jets?

The passion of users for tracking is not only linked to air flights and emerges quite clearly from the growing popularity of services that allow you to locate other means of transport as well. Sites like VesselFinder And MarineTraffic, for example, provide real-time data and information on the movements and position of ships stationary in ports and in the open sea, identified by unique codes such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) number or the Maritime Mobile Service Identification ( MMSI). And even in this case, the use of these tools has over time become a common practice both among the media and among users.

Last March, the seizure of luxury boats from Russian oligarchs hit by the sanctions imposed by the European Union after the Russian invasion of Ukraine was very popular on these sites. Describing this widespread interest in the movement of assets seized from Russian billionaires – and which, unlike others, cannot evidently be moved in secret – a former CIA officer and author of the Twitter account La Guetteuse de Yachts (the yacht observer) used the German word «Schadenfreude», The feeling of pleasure felt for the misfortunes that happen to other people.

Tracking services are sometimes also used for much more limited and secondary issues. In recent weeks a group of users on Reddit intrigued by images of some red lights photographed from a plane flying over the North Pacific Ocean, he discovered more information on the origin of those lights (a group of fishing boats) using the website of the international organization Global Fishing Watchwhich uses satellite technologies to monitor the movements of fishing vessels and reconstruct their activities at sea to discover any irregularities.

– Read also: These lights taken from a flying plane are fishing boats

It is possible that the fascination exercised by the localization of means of transport, which has grown a lot in recent years, derives to a certain extent from a more widespread and general familiarity acquired over time by many users also with the tracking services of goods bought on the Internet. According to a report As of 2019 by UPS, one of the largest shipping and transportation services for items in the world, 94 percent of people who shop online want a certain delivery date for their goods, and 56 percent actively track all shipments.

The obsession with tracking the means of transporting a product purchased online has been associated in some analyses even to a specific form of anxiety. In the Anglo-Saxon context it is defined with the term pre-parcel anxiety (something like “parcel delivery anxiety”) and indicates the feeling of excitement on the one hand and that of nervous impatience on the other, due to the fear that something could go wrong: that the package is lost or that the product arrives damaged, for instance.

Making information on where the package is available at any time – and it also applies to home delivery of food – is considered by many merchants to alleviate this type of anxiety among customers.

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The fascination of tracking – Il Post

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