Software company Palantir – a superstar of the surveillance industry?

2 min
Tags: Palantir analyze the data surveillance customer network US company surveillance industry CIA

Palantir is a US company that processes huge amounts of data from various sources and makes it available to intelligence services, authorities, corporations and the police. They analyze the data and use it for their own purposes. The company sees itself as a defender of the free world, but Palantir is now considered a "superstar of the surveillance industry".

Palantir – the name says it all
Palantir Technologies is a US company that specializes in the analysis of large amounts of data. It was founded in Silicon Valley in 2004 by Alex Karp and the German-American billionaire Peter Thiel and received financial support from the US foreign intelligence service CIA. The name of the company says it all, as Palantir is named after the seeing stones from the bestseller "Lord of the Rings". The company is considered one of the most controversial companies in Silicon Valley.

Worldwide customer network
Palantir's customers include not only US authorities such as the CIA, the FBI, the NSA and the Pentagon, but also companies from the financial and pharmaceutical sectors, as well as civil institutions such as the World Health Organization and the UN Refugee Agency. Palantir offers various software products that enable users to link, visualize, search and analyse data from different sources. The best-known products are Palantir Gotham, which is primarily used for security and intelligence purposes, and Palantir Foundry, which is used to optimize business processes and create predictive models.

Palantir: Key function in surveillance
Palantir claims that its software helps to make the world safer, healthier and more efficient. Among other things, Palantir Gotham is said to have helped in the detection of terror networks, the fight against cyber attacks and the persecution of human traffickers. Palantir Foundry is said to have been used, among other things, in the development of vaccines, improving aircraft maintenance and reducing food waste.

However, Palantir has been criticized for making its software available for questionable or illegal purposes. Among other things, Palantir is said to have been involved in spying on activists and journalists, discriminating against employees, manipulating elections and violating data protection rights. The US civil rights organization ACLU has described Palantir as a "key player in the surveillance industry" and warned of the dangers posed by such a concentration of power.

Palantir in Germany: Ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court

In Germany, Palantir's software even became a case for the Federal Constitutional Court. The police in Hesse and Hamburg had used the company's data analysis software to prevent crimes without having a sufficient legal basis for doing so. On 16 February 2023, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that this constitutes an interference with the informational self-determination of the persons concerned, which can only be justified under strict conditions. The court found that the regulations in Hesse were unconstitutional and had to be revised by the end of September 2023.

At the end of November 2023, it became known that Palantir's analysis software was also being tested at the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office. Explosive: the test is running with real personal data. This called the State Commissioner for Data Protection into action, who expressed doubts about the legal basis for the use of the software. It is questionable whether the analysis software will be introduced nationwide, especially as the federal and state governments were unable to reach an agreement on this point in June 2023.