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Palantir: An uncanny company?

Niklas Janssen

Why does Palantir act that way?

Palantir is clearly positioning itself against other companies that have turned down government contracts in the past because of employee protests like Google and Microsoft. Terminating their contract with the ICE would mean worsening their standing with the government. The goal is to fill a niche as a viable partner for the government without fear of controversy [2]. Peter Thiel, one of the company’s CO-Founders even called Google’s withdrawal from a government contract ‘treasonous’ [2].

To concerns of data privacy violations of his company Karp said the following:

“Software projects with our nation’s defense and intelligence agencies, whose missions are to keep us safe, have become controversial, while companies built on advertising dollars are commonplace. For many consumer internet companies, our thoughts and inclinations, behaviors and browsing habits, are the product for sale. The slogans and marketing of many of the Valley’ s largest technology firms attempt to obscure this simple fact.”

Alex Karp, 2020 [1]

Does the end justify the means?

Palantir seems to think that the end justifies the means. They clearly see their cause as more noble than those of other software firms that are just interested in making a profit by selling personalized user data for advertisement purposes. But they overlook the real damage their systems can cause by wrongly targeting innocent people and giving the responsibility over these sensitive matters to machine learning algorithms.

Like in the case of a 31-year-old immigrant from Chicago who was arrested and detained for 9 months for erroneously being in a gang database that contained information prepared by one of Palantir’s systems. Cases like this pose a good example of how a database that contains an abundance of unverified information can cause great damage [7].

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Niklas Janssen


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