Palantir Technologies

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Palantir Technologies Inc.
Palantir company logo.png
Palantir Technologies Inc. text
Type Privately held software company
Launch Date May 2003
Status active
Product Line Palantir Gotham, Palantir Foundry
Platform Data Analytics

Palantir Technologies is an American data analytics company. It writes software that organizes, secures, and analyzes large sets of data[1]. Through word-of-mouth, many defense, intelligence, and other government agencies enlisted Palantir, including the Department of Defense, CIA, NSA, FBI, CDC, FDA, SEC, and the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board. Palantir has expanded to serve international clients as well. Due to Palantir's clients and the datasets that they work with, some of their projects are considered controversial.


During the early days of PayPal, many criminal organizations such as, the Russian mafia, were stealing a large amount of money through fraudulent transactions. In order to restore PayPal, management hired many computer scientists from Stanford to develop an automated system that would catch fraudulent actions. Programmers changed course and created a system that provided assistance sorting through large amounts of data to identify fraud instead of just "solving the problem". This approach and software is what gave rise to Palantir Technologies, which currently grows within various fields and organizations such as national security and within the commercial space [2].

Peter Theil, founder of Palantir Technologies [3]

Palantir was founded by Peter Theil in May of 2003 [4]. In 2004, Thiel appointed his former Stanford law colleague Alex Karp as the CEO of Palantir. The CIA then became one of Palantir's first customers in 2005 for intelligence analytics. Palantir was named after the seeing stone in Toliken's legendarium. After Palantir obtained other government agencies as clients, they opened a new office in the Washington DC suburb of McLean, VA. They later diversified their clients beyond government agencies. They landed their first private-sector client, J.P. Morgan Chase, in 2009, and they helped them develop software to detect fraud. After this, they acquired other clients in many different industries, such as pharmaceutical companies, insurance agencies, healthcare providers, legal professionals, and commercial lenders.[5]

Palantir Code of Conduct

The company lays out six core commitments towards their ethical values [6].

  • Protect Privacy and Civil Liberties
  • Follow the Law
  • Respect Our Customers
  • Maintain a Safe and Positive Environment
  • Avoid Conflicts of Interest
  • Act with Integrity


Palantir is known for their government contracts but they also have dealings with Corporate customers. Some companies that utilize their services are Merck KGaA, Airbus, Ferrari. Popular clients also large banks, hedge funds, financial services.[7] Many public entities also use Palantir's software including National Institute of Health, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and World Food Programme. In October 2020 Palantir also began helping out the federal government form a logistics system for manufacturing and distributing the COVID-19 vaccines throughout the country. Most famously Palantir is known for working with various government groups such as the NSA, FBI, and the DHS. Palantir has helped the integration of data links between different agencies preventing the issue of information siloing. In 2019 Palantir was contracted by the Pentagon to develop AI unmanned drones for bombings and intelligence.[8]


Palanitir is most well known for three products: Palantir Gotham, Palantir Metropolis, and Palantir Foundry. Gotham is mainly used by counter-terrorism analysts in the United States Intelligenmce Community, the United States Department of Defense, the Recovery Accountability adn Transparency Board, and the Information Warfare Monitor. Gotham's main features include integrating data from different sources to form a human model tracking and analysis system.[9] Metropolis is another one of Palantir's products as well as another data tracking and analysis tool. Metropolis is more geared towards corporate customers with it's ability to track and analyze employees on a large scale. Metropolis has been utilized by companies like JPMorgan to monitor their employees. Similarly to Metropolis, Foundry is another data tool that is geared towards businesses. Foundry however has more features dedicated towards data visualization to help companies analyze their data.[10]

Ethical Controversies

Predictive Policing

Palantir formed a partnership with the New Orleans Police Department in 2012 to create a system to predict who is a driver or victim of violence. To do so, the New Orleans Police department gave Palantir access to the NOPD criminal database, as well as millions of court filings, licenses, addresses, phone numbers, and social media accounts[11]. This was done without notice to the residents of New Orleans or the city council members. Using the information provided to them, Palantir developed a prediction model using a technique called social network analysis to make connections between people, cars, places, weapons, addresses, and other government databases. Officers could then use the prediction model to identify potential victims and assailants based on pieces of information such as a partial license plate number, social media handle, nickname, address, or phone number. Palantir's work in the sector is credited to have decreased the New Orleans homocide rate, however, although the prediction model was used by the New Orleans Police department, it is technically a prototype and could potentially wrongly identify innocent people. [12]

The Los Angeles Police Department incorporated a similar system from Palantir, creating a program called Operation Laser. Data from sources such as rap sheets, parole reports, and police interviews are pooled to generate a list of who the LAPD considers chronic offenders. This list is distributed to police officers, who are then encouraged to stop these people for anything possible. This frequently occurs with police officers using simple excuses like jaywalking to tstop them[13]. In 2014, Palantir patented a crime-risk forecasting system and they have tried to expand these programs to other cities' police departments [14].

Investigative Case Management


In 2019, Palantir decided to renew a 41 million dollar contract to maintain the Investigative Case Management (ICM) system with Immigration and Customs Enforcements. Investigative Case Management is a data management software that enables Immigration and Customs Enforcement to conduct raids and deport illegal immigrants among other things. [15] Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was created in 2003 and is subservient to U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement is responsible for enforcing immigrations laws and customs. Under President Trump, the federal agency is encouraged to perform raids and deport as many illegal immigrants as possible. [16] This decision, made by executives at Palantir, was protested by many employees at Palantir. They expressed their concerns with creating software that would enable Immigration and Customs Enforcement to perform raids on possible illegal aliens. [17] Several online publications including Hill, New York Times, and Noteworthy released online publications highlighting the ethical concerns of Palantir renewing this contract. [18] The actions of Immigration and Custom Enforcement are viewed as humanitarian offences by many. Providing software that aids Immigration and Customs Enforcement is viewed as an offence by proxy. This software directly improves the efficiency of the departments that organize and perform raids. The purpose of these raids is to identify and capture illegal immigrants for deportation. This situation raises an ethical question surrounding the responsibility of companies to know how their products will be used and incorporate that into their decision about what jobs to undertake. Palantir claims that the work of deciding what projects are ethically sound falls on government and the political system. The company’s trust in the government is reflected in its decision to take on the 41 million dollar contract to maintain the Investigative Case Management software. Critics of Palantir claim that a company should be responsible for considering the social and political ramifications of taking on a project. [19] There were talks of Palantir deciding not to renew this contract, but they turned out to be false. In light of this, the government tapped several other firms for the job, but almost all declined. [20] Currently, Palantir stands in firm support of the governments actions, despite risk of the ire of the public and walkouts from employees.


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