Getty, Drew Angerer
Perhaps no other company has profited more from the Trump administration’s treatment of undocumented immigrants — and US citizens of similar appearance — than Peter Thiel‘s Palantir.
A recent investigation, conducted by Mijente, revealed the US government has at least 29 active contracts with the company worth approximately $1.5 billion. This covers Palantir’s work with all four branches of the military, Border Patrol, ICE, and Homeland Security, but it doesn’t even touch on the hundreds of contracts it has with local law enforcement throughout the country. All in all the company’s valued at over $20 billion.
Peter Thiel, the tech billionaire responsible for PayPal, current Facebook board member, and the co-founder of Palantir, is a vocal Conservative and prominent Trump supporter. He was the President’s seventh largest campaign donor in 2016 and remains a staunch ally. But it wasn’t President Trump who brought Palantir into the country’s fold, that distinguishment belongs to President Barrack Obama.
Trump‘s simply elevated the company to the kind of status that’s traditionally been reserved for big players such as Raytheon and Boeing. The result’s been a match made in Conservative heaven. Using AI designed for the military, Palantir’s managed to take wartime technology and implement it at scale across the entire US police industrial complex, causing a complete shift in how law enforcement treats citizen privacy. This concept was described perfectly by Pacific Standard’s Jacqui Shine in a 2017 article:
Commentators who refer to a “police-industrial complex” are usually describing the militarization of police agencies: the steady adoption, which escalated after September 11, 2001, of military technologies and strategies for domestic law enforcement purposes.
But in market terms, there is also a distinct police-industrial complex, in which public-private relationships between law enforcement agencies and a wide variety of for-profit corporations have come to shape our society’s very conceptions of policing and our priorities for justice.
Today, Donald Trump’s party-line nationalism is what directs the US surveillance state. But surveillance isn’t a Republican or Democrat technology: it’s an anti-freedom one. It’s a Pandora’s Box that will remain long after the current controlling party is gone, and we have big tech to thank.
According to the Mijente report:
We could not 20 years ago have envisioned a world in which immigration agents could scour national databases to build sophisticated profiles of us and pinpoint our locations for arrest, or in which border patrol agents could man all-seeing surveillance towers to fully monitor the frontier with Mexico, immediately spotting anyone walking in the desert.
If we are not careful, we will not know what we will be fighting in 20 years. We must understand, document, and oppose these dangerous partnerships today.
Trump and Thiel have created a profit-machine based on disguising mass-surveillance as “data analytics.” These tools can’t predict crime or terrorism, as they’re purported to by Palantir. And they certainly can’t use algorithms to magically predict where an undocumented immigrant is likely to be — they’re not mere administrative tools designed to help manage investigations for overwhelmed agents, they’re illegal, unconstitutional surveillance portals.
In order to understand just how much information Palantir has on you, here’s a list of just some of the public and private databases that Palantir has access to per a Vice report:
On top of this, Palantir has access to classified military data, facial recognition cameras across the country and at the borders, and the complete trust and cooperation of the Federal government and hundreds of local law enforcement agencies. It’s a surveillance machine capable of tracking anyone and everyone.
And the company’s now deeply embedded within the US government. Its contracts will outlast Trump‘s presidency even if he serves a second term. Those who currently sit silently – or cheer – as the government uses mass surveillance and dragnet policing to round up and incarcerate undocumented immigrants should consider how easy it’ll be to turn this technology on citizens.