CIA-backed data-mining business Palantir is reportedly in talks with banks to take the company public for a blockbuster sum, and could move as early as next year.Peter Thiel’s company – known for its work with the US government, spy agencies and police as well as its reported links to the Cambridge Analytica data-harvesting saga – has raised some $2bn since its inception in 2004.
Mark Harris of Wired has put together a fascinating expose of the company’s work with US law enforcement based on documents obtained via FOIA requests. What’s uncovered does little to alter Palantir’s reputation as an enemy of personal privacy. What’s added to this rep isn’t any more flattering: the documents show Palantir handles data carelessly, ties customers into overpriced support/upgrades, and otherwise acts as though it has to answer to no one.In one case, files marked as sensitive by a Long Beach drug squad detective were still accessible by other officers who shouldn’t have had access. Multiple emails to Palantir failed to resolve the issue. Making it worse was the fact the problem couldn’t be contained in-house. When agencies sign up for Palantir services, they’re given heavily-discounted rates if they allow their data to be shared with other law enforcement agencies. Detectives hoping to protect sensitive sources and undercover cops from outside access were finding out their employers had signed that option away in exchange for cheaper initial pricing.