Palantir: An uncanny company?

image of multiple hard disks

In the future data privacy could be one of the biggest issues of our time with growing supervision capabilities from big enterprises and governments. China is a telling example of what could happen if data privacy and anonymity on the internet is completely eroded. On the other hand, there is also a big potential benefit that could come from evaluating the vast data sources we have and using them for good, like stopping terror attacks and other criminal activity before it happens.

Palantir is a US based Data Mining enterprise that specializes in helping departments of state to evaluate big amounts of data. In the past it has come under criticism for its work with secret services and lack of transparency. One of the main tasks of Palantir is preemptively stopping criminal offenses [5]. The name ‘Palantir’ is a homage to the Lord of the Rings books from J.R.R. Tolkien [8]. In the books the so called ‘Palantíri’ are crystal balls, that can be used to communicate over long distances.

Palantir was founded in 2004 by Alex Karp, Peter Thiel, Joe Lonsdale, Stephen Cohen and Nathan Gettings. The investment firm In-Q-tel (a subsidiary of  the CIA) helped finance it [5]. Since then, Palantir grew steadily. It has more than 2500 employees and operates from 25 international company locations. The main location was moved from the Silicon Valley and is now in Denver.

In a recent interview the CEO Alex Karp said the following about the company’s goals:

“The core mission of our company always was to make the West, especially America, the strongest in the world, the strongest it’s ever been, for the sake of global peace and prosperity, and we feel like this year we really showed what that would mean”

Alexander Karp, 2019 [9]