High above the Hudson River in downtown Jersey City, a former U.S. Secret Service agent named Peter Cavicchia III ran special ops for JPMorgan Chase & Co. His insider threat group--most large financial institutions have one--used computer algorithms to monitor the bank's employees, ostensibly to protect against perfidious traders and other miscreants. Aided by as many as 120 "forward-deployed engineers" from the data mining company Palantir Technologies Inc., which JPMorgan engaged in 2009, Cavicchia's group vacuumed up emails and browser histories, GPS locations from company-issued smartphones, printer and download activity, and transcripts of digitally recorded phone conversations. Palantir's software aggregated, searched, sorted, and analyzed these records, surfacing keywords and patterns of behavior that Cavicchia's team had flagged for potential abuse of corporate assets. Palantir's algorithm, for example, alerted the insider threat team when an employee started badging into work later than usual, a sign of potential disgruntlement. That would trigger further scrutiny and possibly physical surveillance after hours by bank security personnel. Over time, however, Cavicchia himself went rogue. Former JPMorgan colleagues describe the environment as Wall Street meets Apocalypse Now, with Cavicchia as Colonel Kurtz, ensconced upriver in his office suite eight floors above the rest of the bank's security team. People in the department were shocked that no one from the bank or Palantir set any real limits.
The 24 March, 2020 will be remembered by some for the news that Prince Charles tested positive for Covid and was isolating in Scotland. In Athens it was memorable as the day the traffic went silent. Twenty-four hours into a hard lockdown, Greeks were acclimatising to a new reality in which they had to send an SMS to the government in order to leave the house. As well as millions of text messages, the Greek government faced extraordinary dilemmas. The European Union's most vulnerable economy, its oldest population along with Italy, and one of its weakest health systems faced the first wave of a pandemic that overwhelmed richer countries with fewer pensioners and stronger health provision. One Greek who did go into the office that day was Kyriakos Pierrakakis, the minister for digital transformation, whose signature was inked in blue on an agreement with the US technology company, Palantir. The deal, which would not be revealed to the public for another nine months, gave one of the world's most controversial tech companies access to vast amounts of personal data while offering its software to help Greece weather the Covid storm. The zero-cost agreement was not registered on the public procurement system, neither did the Greek government carry out a data impact assessment – the mandated check to see whether an agreement might violate privacy laws. The questions that emerge in pandemic Greece echo those from across Europe during Covid and show Palantir extending into sectors from health to policing, aviation to commerce and even academia.
"Palantir Law Enforcement provides robust, built-in privacy and civil liberties protections, including granular access controls and advanced data retention capabilities," its website reads. Ethereum Is Coding's New Wild West In one of the largest systematic investigations of the company to date, Backchannel filed dozens of public records requests with police forces across America. All 50 states have public records laws providing access to contracts, documents, and emails of local and government bodies. Palantir's software has been deployed by police departments in Los Angeles (LAPD), Long Beach (LBPD), and Burbank; sheriff's departments in Sacramento, Ventura, and Los Angeles Counties (LASD); the state's highway patrol; and homeland security "fusion centers" run by local departments in Orange County, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, San Diego and Los Angeles.
When a little-known Silicon Valley software startup began vying for national security contracts, it went up against an entrenched bureaucracy and opposition from major contractors skilled in the Washington game. But quickly, Palantir began pulling pages from the defense industry's own playbook -- bulking up on lobbyists, challenging the Pentagon's contracting rules and getting members of Congress to sprinkle favorable language into defense legislation. Seven years later, the secretive firm has landed 1.2 billion worth of federal business, and critics say the legislative favors it has secured will give it a leg up on billions more. Representatives of the firm -- founded by venture capitalist and prominent Donald Trump supporter Peter Thiel -- insist it remains an outsider in a Washington culture deeply wedded to the status quo. But a review of public documents and interviews with key players shows the company is no stranger to Beltway politics and influence.
Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel reportedly solicited financial assistance from the CIA to help found his secretive firm Palantir, which helped the National Security Agency's controversial domestic surveillance program. Not only did US intelligence agencies help the company financially when it was in its infancy, but it also reportedly collaborated with it in developing software used to gather sensitive information. The software is so advanced that the NSA has bragged that Palantir has helped it make use of its'widest reaching' data mining program that enables the agency to capture'nearly everything a typical user does on the internet.' The revelations were reported on Wednesday by The Intercept. Thiel, who was also a co-founder of PayPal and one of the first to invest in Facebook, has generated headlines in recent months because of his close ties to President Donald Trump.