Palantir: Are you being Watched?

By Nithusa Sinnadurai

Imagine having the technological abilities to observe and monitor the general public. Who should possess the intelligence and the power of watching over all of the nation under the name of security? After 17 years hidden amongst the shadows, Palantir has finally released it’s stock to the public. 

However, that is not the only reason why Palantir is on everyone’s lips: Americans have previously expressed their distaste towards their privacy being violated with the government being able to have the ability to track citizens every move. Recently with Palantir having expanded its partnerships to several corporations, and with their stocks being open to the public, where is the line drawn between national security and non-consensual spying, and should the public be considered hypocrites for buying a stock?

Palantir is an American software company that provides its consumers with data to “empower entire organizations to answer complex questions.” The company was founded by Alex Karp, Joe Lonsdale, Nathan Gettings and Peter Thiel in 2003 in response to 9/11, with the goal of protecting American citizens. Alex Karp, CEO and Co-Founder stressed the importance of Palantir’s mission to “make the West, especially America, the strongest in the world for the sake of global peace and prosperity.” The software aids the government in spotting suspicious or unusual patterns detected within large sets of data. The company has received praise for its ability to use and analyze data analytics to track and capture terrorists, drug smugglers and uncover fraud.

 Furthermore, Palantir opened its clientele to several corporations such as Fiat Chrysler, who uses Palantir to identify potential faults in car manufacturing. AirBus uses it to increase its responsiveness to its manufacturing problems during the production of its aircraft and the British Petroleum company (BP) utilises the software to analyze and find oil. Along with the knowledge Palantir provides its clients, there continue to be a few corporations who have abused this privilege; corporations like JP Morgan Chase. The investment bank had initially used the software to identify agitated employees who might go against the company, however, JP Morgan’s Special Operations team abused the software to spy on top executives.

For the longest time Palantir’s biggest partners included the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Department of Defense (DOD) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This raised a huge red flag especially during the height of Donald Trump’s administration, as many concerned citizens questioned the company’s affiliation with ICE. Several protests took place in 2019 when Palantir was torn between choosing the side of the Democrats and liberal-Silicon Valley or to work with the government under the name of nationalism.The agency was able to track down several illegal immigrants, causing many families to be separated at the borders. That, along with fellow CEO Peter Theil being an ardent Trump supporter did not sit well with the public, nor with many employees within Palantir, thus leading to many employee-run walkouts and protests. In contrast, amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, Palantir has recently formed new partnerships with the National Institute of Health and Britain’s National Health Service to collect resources and monitor the spread of the virus.

Amidst the internal and external conflict of determining whether or not Palantir is a villain or an unsung hero, Palantir has made its jump from the private stock to public stock. On September, 2nd, 2020, Palantir allowed investors to purchase its stock at approximately $9.50 per share. With Palantir’s total 2019 revenue of 743 million dollars and the company growth by 49% since, is considered extremely attractive to several investors. With that being said, the public continued to squirm in their seats with the thought of more people taking control of users’ data. Nevertheless, Palantir provided a solution by releasing two branches of its software: Gotham and Foundry. Gotham was created for government use while Foundry is meant to serve the private sector. 

With the public now having the ball in their court, they are faced with the option of buying a stock to join in on the cash grab with the Palantir team, or to refute the idea, resist prying eyes of the government and corporations and reinforce their right to privacy.

Photo by Chris Yang, Unsplash

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