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Palantir: A startup that knows everything about you.

Everyone's A Gangster Until A Real Gangster Walks In The Room.

- Al Capone

Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google AKA FAANG companies are always blamed to hurt our privacy. These are consumer-based companies which use our data to show ads, personalize the application interaction and recommend. Though the collection and use of data by them raise concerns, these are nothing compared to work done by the real gangster, Palantir.

Palantir is a secretive data and analytics company founded in 2003 by Peter Thiel, Paypal’s Co-founder and Trump Supporter. It is among the most valuable startup of the silicon valley. Many estimates put the valuation of Palantir near to $20 billion. Since the start, the Palantir has been in controversies because of the project it takes. Palantir lately has been working for the US government, US defence, FBI, CIA and many other European governments. It helps its client to crunch the data and to find out the information, which human misses. Palantir rarely discloses whom it is working for and on what projects by which Palantir got tags of a secretive and shady startup of silicon valley.

In the words of the Palantir’s chief executive officer, Alex Karp, the core mission of Palantir is

"Make the west especially America the strongest in the world. The strongest ever been."

and for this, Palantir is developing software to weaponise the data available to them. To find hints and clues from the loads of data they have. There are rumours that Palantir had helped the US defence to trace Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Palantir has a connection with every scandalous project of recent times, be it be

  • Maven, Google ambitious project for US defence to implement AI in drones in Afghanistan which had sparked a protest against google by its own employees,

  • Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal, which used voter’s data without their consent for political advertisement,

  • US’s Immigration and customs enforcement (ICE) raids and Killings, ICE is the US agency responsible for enforcing President Donald Trump’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants in the country.

“...Our product is used on occasions to kill people.” This is the statement given by Alex Karp when he was interviewed for a show broadcasted on HBO. If you are their target, their software will look upon everything related to you. Your location, your downloads, your connections, your social media and any data they can work upon. Then they will connect the dots and present it interactively in front of their client. Then the client can harness the information related to you.

An article in Bloomberg by Peter Waldman, Lizette Chapman, and Jordan Robertson on April 19, 2018, presented the model Palantir use very effectively. (I’ll be sharing sources of this article on my LinkedIn account.) If Palantir software is used for Peter Thiel, then it will be presented like this image.

This image gives so much detail about Peter Thiel and that too in Palantir’s way. I find another interesting example where Palantir is used. The US’s Los Angeles Police Department uses Palantir software, Gotham, since 2009 to find the people who are likely to commit a crime. Gotham is constantly scrutinising the people of Los Angeles and notifying the police if it recognizes a certain trend in someone’s behaviour. An interview with the policeman of Los Angeles revealed the way Palantir software works. He said if you enter the suspect name, the software will instantly show details like :

Son of .......

Father of .....

Car License Number .....

Criminal History ...... and many other details.

I have a sense of dread for the way this company works. The software Palantir is developing can be used in variety either to exploit or to help. Recently, Palantir is also working with the UK health department to help them trace COVID-19 cases across countries. But who are other clients of Palantir and what work they are commencing and why? The way of Palantir to think the relation of human with society is spidergram which can be decoded by the software can send chills in the body of many.

Investment in Palantir

Palantir has raised around $3 billion from various investors and now stands at the valuation of $20 Billion. The seed funder in the Palantir intrigued me as this funding was provided by In-Q-Tel, which is the investment arm of the CIA, US. Recently Palantir announced that will raise around $1 billion via going public in the US stock market. The initial public offering of Palantir will be the largest tech IPO after Uber’s. This IPO of the Palantir will reveal more about the working of it but Palantir is filling a confidential IPO which will allow it to bypass many of details that other companies have to submit before listing. This confidentiality of the IPO will make the evaluation of Palantir stock tough, but it will be interesting to see the debut of this secret company.


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