How Palantir, Peter Thiel's Secretive Data Company, Pushed Its Way Into Policing - 2017-08-09
What's clear is that law enforcement agencies deploying Palantir have run into a host of problems. Exposing data is just the start. In the documents our requests produced, police departments have also accused the company, backed by tech investor and Trump supporter Peter Thiel, of spiraling prices, hard-to-use software, opaque terms of service, and "failure to deliver products" (in the words of one email from the Long Beach police). Palantir might streamline some criminal investigations—but there's a possibility that it comes at a high cost, for both the police forces themselves and the communities they serve.
These documents show how Palantir applies Silicon Valley's playbook to domestic law enforcement. New users are welcomed with discounted hardware and federal grants, sharing their own data in return for access to others'. When enough jurisdictions join Palantir's interconnected web of police departments, government agencies, and databases, the resulting data trove resembles a pay-to-access social network—a Facebook of crime that's both invisible and largely unaccountable to the citizens whose behavior it tracks.
This is the story of how Palantir, despite the issues unearthed by Backchannel's investigation, came to quietly dominate the domestic law enforcement intelligence infrastructure of the US's most populous state—and how it could replicate that across the nation and around the world.