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Palantir and Prism: A Possible Link (talkingpointsmemo.com)
278 points by retr0grad3 1208 days ago | hide | past | web | 155 comments | favorite



Not really a surprise. Palantir has always been secretive about what exactly it is they do every day, though it's always been implied and rumored that a large part is government intelligence work.

Also the reason why I've ignored every contact from a Palantir recruiter so far. This smells like working for the white collar, air-conditioned, catered-lunch version of Blackwater.


They're pretty upfront with the fact that a major portion of their business is from the US government, especially intelligence analysts. The other chunk is financial (hedge funds and the like as well as banks looking for fraud).

Not that it excuses any of it but they really don't try to hide it.


It seems a quick run through the open positions at Palantir can tell you a lot more...

http://www.palantir.com/careers/OpenPositionLanding

   "Embedded Analyst, Government: Canberra"
   "Embedded Analyst, Government: London"
   "Embedded Analyst, Government: New Zealand"
   "Engineer, Developer Support Team (McLean, VA)"
   "Forward Deployed Engineer: Singapore"
   "Forward Deployed Software Engineer, Government: Berlin"
   "Forward Deployed Software Engineer: Denmark"
   "Forward Deployed Software Engineer: Finland"
   "Forward Deployed Software Engineer: Norway"
   "Forward Deployed Software Engineer: Stockholm"


As some one who's just interviewed with them for a "Forward Deployed SE, Government" internship position, I did ask what's up with the government in the title and what kind of work I'd do for them. They informed me that the word referred to one of the two products I'll be working on (Gotham over Metropolis) and that Gotham used to be called "Government", something that you can see on Wikipedia as well.

Now I'm not saying Gotham isn't used by gov't, I just wanted to explain what the word actually stood for.


Ugh, a quick review on glassdoor makes their hiring practices sound soul sucking

http://www.glassdoor.com/Interview/Palantir-Technologies-Int...


They have a really strong college recruiting organization, which seems to be how they hire most of their people, so glassdoor probably isn't as representative.

For the "FDE" positions, it's much closer to being onsite support/tech/contractor. I assure you Palantir is less shitty to interview for/work for than virtually any "traditional defense contractor", which is their comparison (I've never interviewed at Palantir, but know a lot of people there, including their recruiters, and have worked for the alternatives.)

This is all independent of their "mission". (I support national security but not unlimited monitoring of US citizens; It's annoying that stuff like PRISM deters good people from working for government, lowering our capability to respond, and thus hurting national security...)


I have a friend who does recruitment at Palantir and he told me he has PERSONALLY hired 100 people in the past year. Sounds like quite the conveyor belt of new people coming in. He said it was mostly interns, so I guess they must have a strong college program.


Associates of Alexander Karp and Peter Thiel from Bilderberg meetings.


>Not that it excuses any of it but they really don't try to hide it.

Exactly. I had a chat with a recruiter a couple years ago and he was upfront about contracts with government agencies and data mining. But sure, someone internet gumshoe totally _cracked the case_ by going to Palantir's official website and clicking 'What we do' ( https://www.palantir.com/what-we-do/ )


Be careful with moral judgements like that. You basically work in an industry that exists due to it's role in preparing for nuclear war.


Sure, but I wasn't alive then, and the work I've done personally hasn't contributed to nuclear war or anything of that sort. Through my college years I had a couple of opportunities to work in the defense industry, but chose not to.

Which doesn't mean people aren't getting shot and blown up, it just means I'm not closely involved with it. My stance is not beating people over the head with morality, it's purely personal and self-centered. It helps me sleep better at night when I'm not building tools that directly spy on people. I'd like to be as many degrees removed from that as possible, really. Don't take my post to mean that I'm prescribing this morality onto others.

We could do a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon that proves that my work actually does lead to pain, death, and suffering throughout the world in a convoluted and indirect way, and it may in fact be true - but I don't think it's a stretch to say that there is a large moral difference between directly working on something with ill effects and being far removed from it with no intentional contribution.

Side note though: I don't buy this argument that we can't condemn things unless our hands our perfectly clean. The fact that we all are products of war, suffering, and other terrible things does not remove our ability to steer the ship forward.


> the work I've done personally hasn't contributed to nuclear war or anything of that sort.

You might find this interesting: https://gist.github.com/zmaril/5326884

TL;DR: if you've contributed to open source in some way, you've probably given Palantir the tools they need to do their work.


I don't agree with the post you're replying to, but your argument seems pretty specious to me.

Software developers are generally no more responsible for the misdeeds of others using their software than anyone else that produces almost any kind of tool.


I agree, its "first do no harm" mantra


I'd go further than that. A bunch of people are expressing surprise/outrage that a bunch of companies that spy on for profit you at the service of the advertising industry are sharing the fruits of that spying with the government for national security.


The greatest minds of our generation are figuring out how to get a sated consumer to click


No, the greatest minds of our generation are still working where they always have: in academia, research labs, etc. The people figuring out how to get consumers to click are the top 5-0.5% minds. When I look back at people from my high school, most of the tippy-top people are getting PhD's and figuring out how to do nuclear fusion. It's the next rung down that are working on Wall Street, Silicon Valley, etc.


Speculating about who has the bigger brain seems pretty silly.

There's no way you could ever realistically prove your position (ditto the parent).


Perched so high, looking down on mere mortals. The view from the Ivory Tower is never cloudy.


Whats wrong with preparing for nuclear war, especially if preparation is an effective deterrent to actual nuclear war. Ensuring a credible second strike ability is probably one of the more rational ethical actions someone can take outside of pacifism.

Of course creating a credible second strike ability is so easy ( merely hide x weapons with delivery systems controlled by PALs ) that it has been a solved problem from the 1960s.


If you're implying that the internet would not exist if the US government had not seen it as a way to prepare for nuclear war, I disagree.

(I do not have an opinion on the morality of working for Palantir.)


How does this logic work? Because people in this profession 80 years ago contributed to those efforts we should somehow be grateful to them or something??


>Palantir has always been secretive about what exactly it is they do every day, though it's always been implied and rumored that a large part is government intelligence work

Wow. That's just as bad as saying since a person uses TOR, they're being secretive and must have something to hide. You must be able to see the hypocrisy in all of this.


> That's just as bad as saying since a person uses TOR, they're being secretive and must have something to hide.

People who use TOR are being secretive and have something to hide.

They may have very good reasons to want to hide it because of threats from bad actors (including, potentially, their own governments), but if they didn't have something to hide, they wouldn't be expending additional resources to actively hide things, which is exactly what using TOR is .


>Also the reason why I've ignored every contact from a Palantir recruiter so far. This smells like working for the white collar, air-conditioned, catered-lunch version of Blackwater.

Is this because you would not like to work at a company handling such data, or because you think you are making a difference by not doing so?

If the former, fair enough. If the latter, you might want to rethink the approach - refusing the job only means someone else will take it, and is likely to be 'worse' according to the values that prevent you from taking the job (less likely to blow the whistle, less likely to challenge sales on projects that are evil etc.)


I haven't talked to any such recruiters or entertained the thought because:

- I'm uncomfortable working for a company that has this much power over private citizens but is not even nominally accountable to said citizens.

- I'm uncomfortable with the (sadly popular) tactic of shoving ugly and disdainful things onto private contractors as a way of distancing and plausible deniability. In both the government and private contexts.

- The job market for programmers is good enough that I have the freedom to be hoity toity with my morality.

I realize full well that given how much Palantir pays, they will fill the seats they need to fill to do the work they do. The world may be on an unavoidable course to hell, but I don't need to jump out and push.


I asked them about this in an interview.

Simply put, they said that if you don't feel comfortable working on a project, you just say so, and get moved elsewhere.


> refusing the job only means someone else will take it

If he's the only person who refuses the job, yes. But the overall effect depends on how many people refuse the job. If a significant percentage of technologists with in-demand skills refuse to do a particular kind of work, it will become harder for a company to hire that kind of employee. Lots of companies in the Valley are already having trouble hiring enough skilled staff, and competing on intangibles, ranging from perceived interestingness of work to perks like gourmet lunches, is one axis they use to try to get employees.


That logic is nice, but when you have the resources Palantir will have available to them, they can afford to train people themselves if need be. Then they don't need knowledge, skills, or abilities, merely talent.

That's how the military does it after all, even in very technically demanding occupations.


> refusing the job only means someone else will take it,

Isn't that true for almost any moral stance? Should I stop being a vegetarian because someone else will eat the meat anyway?


Yes. For every animal you don't eat, I'll eat two.


>Isn't that true for almost any moral stance?

That part on its own is not enough. Only when: 1. someone else will do <the job> AND 2. it would be better for you to be doing <the job> than someone who takes it up then you should take it instead of them.


I understand and somewhat agree with your point, but sometimes people anticipate that, given the incentives of the job, they're unlikely to be any better than anyone else when push comes to shove (your pt 2). Think of "golden handcuffs" as one example.

This particular example doesn't apply to me, but I think I'd personally be able to rationalize a lot of selfish behavior following that logic so I try to avoid putting myself in situations where it would come up, even if both points might apply.


That is an argument for voluntarily joining the most despicable of organisations with the goal of fixing them from the inside. That is foolish.


>That is an argument for voluntarily joining the most despicable of organisations with the goal of fixing them from the inside.

More 'damage control' than 'fixing them', but sure, close enough. The point is, do not compare 'this job is evil, I produce -10 units of global utility' and then 'this job is good, I produce +20 units of global utility' looking only at your output. Instead, compare 'By taking this job, I will produce -10 units of global utility, instead of someone else producing -50', in which case the gain from you taking the job is +40.


I've seen that argument advanced seriously quite a few times, but it seems like a weird combination of utilitarianism taken to it's reductio ad absurdum form and the Nuremberg Defence

If asked what I chose to do with my life, I don't really want to say "I chose to commit acts of evil to order, but at least I was selective about which acts of evil, and not too competent at carrying them out"


If some number of people refuse those jobs, then their pool of potential workers is smaller, meaning they have to either pay more or settle for worse engineers. At least it's something.


Paying more may just mean they charge taxpayers more.


Well then I guess it's my moral duty to help spy on my fellow citizens so that I will save the country money.


I think you need to rethink your argument. As far as i can tell, you're essentially saying "Take this job that's against your ethics or somebody else will".


No, I'm saying "Take this job that is against your ethics and do the best thing you can, because otherwise someone who is not concerned about this job being unethical will take it, and do much more damage than you will".


You sound like Boromir.

Now that I think about it, calling it Palantir is ridiculously apt.



From the recruiting efforts I've seen, I would be surprised if they aren't just hiring everyone who meets their criteria. Which would make your argument that "refusing the job only means someone else will take it" not a very good one.


Yes, if they're aiming to hire more people than are actually willing to work there, the argument breaks down. I doubt that's the case, but your point stands.


Well you can't deny that their developers probably take on some pretty novel and interesting challenges.


You could say that about a lot of immoral/unethical jobs.


Yes: solving drug trafficking routes with several constraints, making the best scams, exploiting vulnerabilities to install a botnet.

All are very interesting challenges.


Drug trafficking is a relatively honorable occupation that delivers a highly demanded consumer good that's affordable for a broad cross section of society. It's unfair to compare it to the Stasi or consumer scams.


Except for all the people killed by the gangs involved in smuggling this highly demanded consumer good that's affordable for a broad cross section of society across the borders.


Those are all consequences of illegality, not of the trade itself.


Not just immoral/unethical jobs either - but sometimes other jobs which some classes of people consider "less desirable". It's the social network guys these days, but back in the late '90's I learnt more about large-scale highly-available and secure web development from people working in the porn industry than anywhere else. (I remember a long and fascinating/educational series of conversations with Sudicide Girls tech people at the Open Source Convention in San Diego back in 2000 or 2001.)


What kind of challenges? Please elaborate.


"The problem space we tackle is wildly diverse and growing every day. We enable the discovery of new financial relationships and strategies in capital markets. We uncover fraud rings and cyber attacks. We develop strategies for optimizing home lending default strategies. We are not domain experts; we are problem solving experts."

http://www.palantir.com/careers/OpenPosDetail?id=a0m80000000...


something that isn't marketing recruitment speak would be more illuminating.


> We are not domain experts; we are problem solving experts

Eeek!


Sounds like my granddad's job he had in the 30s. He was a troubleshooter. It wasn't a euphemism.


Out of curiosity, what sparked this reaction? Is "problem solving" a euphemism for technical drudge-work? Glorified IT contracting?


Because it seems to emphasize doing over thinking. Maybe not a bad idea, but in the context of the comments about blackwater, immoral and illegal things, and indoctrinating fresh grads it sounded spooky.


I was thinking since they are probably on the fringes of legality, but with government sign-off, they probably get a lot of free reign to solve problems you typically wouldn't delve into, for fear of legal backlash. So basically you become a legal hacker. That would be kinda neat, and appealing, from a geek perspective.


I agree with your point here. I wont be surprised if Palantir is associated with PRISM.


Palantir Rakes In Stupendous Money?


The link between the U.S. government's program codenamed PRISM and Palantir's internal software called Prism is completely coincidental. If you take a look at their site, you will learn that Metropolis is Palantir's alias for their finance product[1]. This is obvious just looking at the page in question as it [2] describes how to add Timeseries data. Timeseries data is usually composed of information about stocks or derivatives.

I don't dispute that Palantir deals with much of the nation's intelligence, but attempting to draw a link between two pieces of software that happen to be named the same seems like pretty bad reporting to me. Even if there is a disclaimer at the top of the page.

Full Disclosure: I'm an ex-Palantir employee.

[1] http://www.palantir.com/platforms/#metropolis

[2] https://docs.palantir.com/metropolisdev/prism-overview.html#...


I was about to post, "Nice try, Palantir employee." Then I got to the full disclosure bit. Fair enough.

I would assume that PRISM is an internal codename for the project within the NSA. Just a wild guess, but perhaps it stands for "Palantir's Repeated Interception of Society's Metadata."


Full Disclosure: I'm ex-Palantir Government Dev

Ok guys. Let's use Occam's Razor for a second. What's more likely?

1) A company that purposefully goes around blackmailing people to make deals, uses underhanded tactics, and spies on the people, yet is able to hire amazingly talented (and opinionated supporters of the EFF) engineers from Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, and MIT.

Or

2)a company that builds a data analytics platform that is useful to a lot of people and honestly believes they're helping the world by finding missing children, tracking terrorism, and fighting fraud.

Although this article is just ludicrous. All because I think up the same domain name as someone else doesn't mean I hacked into their computer and stole their code.


Those options aren't mutually exclusive.


There are subsections within large companies; it's usually unclear to most employees what that subsection really does (that is, if they're even aware of the existence of the subsection to begin with).

Companies try to gauge level of "trustworthiness" and transfer folks higherups feel are trust-able into the subsections where work is done that some may feel is ethically dubious.


I told my sister-in-law (a very level-headed economist) about Palantir and she just referred to them as paramilitary thugs. It hadn't occurred to me to phrase it like that because they are a young, hip group that borrows from Lord of the Rings and evidently posts cartoons on their walls.

Karp's M.O. is to simply list off all the possible use cases of data inference, including good ones. It makes him sound like a wise judge who will exercise restraint. However, these use cases are sometimes simply incompatible with each other, no matter how you slice it. Even IF he's a well-intentioned judge (which I doubt), political forces are likely to overrule his control when the kitchen gets hot enough.

We must stop excusing bad behavior from our elites.


This is the first time I've heard Palantir being called paramilitary thugs. Are there specific claims that would substantiate that? (I was an early employee.)


Nope. Admittedly, kind of a cheap shot. Especially the thugs part.

However, more broadly, I believe a lot of problem is the asymmetric abuse of rhetorical language by the clever silicon valley execs. Once you have the public using your terms, they're on your terms.

It's why the word "surveillance" is so critical to the discussion: People know what it means. "Analytics" and even "privacy" are euphemisms that keep average people uninformed or placated.

Fighting fire with fire, I'm simply trying to get some terminology inserted into the discussion that isn't from Palantir's website or the (PR) media.


I am confused. If there are no claims or evidence supporting the usage of the term "paramilitary thugs," then why bring it up at all? "Trying to get some terminology inserted into the discussion" is worthless (and arguably harmful) if there is no justification for such inflammatory terminology.


Just keep in mind who abused the Palantir.


"Thugs"? For people that make, sell, and customize software?

That sounds like a description people would attach to Blackwater.


It's striking how much of modern political thinking comes down to branding.


Seriously, there's a lot of FUD on this thread. Right now it's anecdotal evidence at best that there is a relationship there at all. But most people here seem to be talking about it as if it's already proven fact. Come on HN.


It's absolutely unbelievable how groupthink manages to take over here sometimes. There are 296 repositories on Github when you search for PRISM. People need to stop and think for a minute about how generic of a name that is. It's certainly doesn't serve as any kind of useful evidence against Palantir.


Meanwhile, it is a public fact that Cisco helped build the great firewall of China[1].

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_censorship_in_the_Peo...


Palantir has hundreds of employees swarming around downtown Palo Alto. Hundreds. Somebody is paying that company a LOT of money for something.

There is something very weird about the employees in Palo Alto: I never see them at local meetups, events, parties, and such. They are truly strangers who keep to themselves and don't engage with the local community... and very young. I get the feeling they come from afar and are just out in California for a short time, and don't see themselves staying here. Like expats in their own country. Maybe they are from NSA families. Maybe Palantir functions effectively like an internship program for future NSA employees.


I don't think Palantir is a sinister NSA conspiracy so much as a manifestation of a certain kind of corporate culture present both in and outside of the intelligence community. At least from my interaction with employees there, it's not an NSA feeder nor an NSA nepotism apparatus, just a corporation that hires aggressively out of Ivy Leagues and then indoctrinates into a specific culture.

In my experience Palantir employees tend to work late and party with other Palantir employees. A friend lived with a Palantir employee and I worked in one of their buildings (100 Hamilton). In my limited observation I noted a definite "wake up, go to Palantir, work, go out with Palantir, go back, after-party at Palantir, sleep" lifestyle that many Palantir employees subscribe to.

It's very "corporate cult"-esque: they hire inexperienced fresh grads from top-tier universities, and put them all together so that they foster relationships with each other, then build social events and in-office parties so people are reluctant to go out.


A lot of them also obtain US Govt security clearances, and it's a bit of a process to obtain and something of an achievement in and of itself.

But the ones I know also take the responsibility seriously, and I can't help but wonder if that influences some of them to spend more time with each other where they don't have to watch what they say, and less with the "outside" world where they have to be a little more on guard.


If you're born and raised in America, with a clean record, and sane, shouldn't getting clearance be easy?


First, in order to get a clearance you have to be sponsored. Companies have a limited number of sponsorship slots allocated to them by the government.

Then, the process behind getting cleared is fairly arduous. You may have a clean record but you have to prove it exhaustively even for the lowest level of clearance -- I believe the application form is on the order of 40 pages. You have to list all of your friends and sexual relations from the past 10 years, for instance, so that they can go an interview every single one of them.

Essentially, being born and raised in america and having a clean record while being sane is just a baseline requirement.


One of the most visible Palantir employees is Michael Lopp (aka Rands), ex-Apple and Borland engineering manager and now a director at Palantir.

Lopp is pretty visible, writing a blog (http://www.randsinrepose.com), publishing a few books, and speaking at numerous conferences.

But you're right, it seems Palantir takes a lot of it's culture from Apple as opposed to Google.


It's probably hard to get a lot of government counterterrorism and military contracting work if you are dedicated to openness in the spirit of Google.


What? I subscribe to his mailing list, and read his blog... Yikes.


On the other hand, they openly and frequently share information about their work on Quora: https://www.quora.com/Palantir-Technologies. Here they sort of address the apparent secrecy:

> This is a common misconception. We do have clients whose names we can't share, but we try to be as open as we can, both internally and externally. We put as much of our customer work as we can on our Analysis Blog (http://www.palantirtech.com/gove...). We participate in the open source community (https://github.com/palantir/). We have engaged with press who have pretty thoroughly profiled the company (http://www.washingtonian.com/art...). We share how our technology works on our white videos (Google "white videos"). We even tell people exactly what we look for when we interview candidates and give tips (see entries in (http://blog.palantir.com/)

http://qr.ae/pgHRy


> Somebody is paying that company a LOT of money for something.

As they've made perfectly clear, their major clients are the department of defense and hedge funds. Of course they're getting paid a lot of money.


Palantir was funded by In-Q-Tel. In-Q-Tel is the CIAs VC arm. It's a non-profit VC for the intelligence community. So, they don't even care if their investment makes money, they just want spy tech at whatever their budget can afford.

Not conspiracy theory or speculation, all public info.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-Q-Tel

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/additional-publicat...;

It's absolutely a spook shop. Many people working there don't seem to realize they're spooks though. They highly target a lot of young, naive, fresh grads.


They don't come from afar. As an ex-dev, I can actually say that most of them come from across the street (Stanford). When I was there, the heaviest represented schools were Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, UIUC, and Cornell.

And no, at least on the core dev team, I can't imagine any of them ever even considering joining the NSA. We did what we did because it was fun. NSA sounds too corporate.


There is something very weird about the employees in Palo Alto: I never see them at local meetups, events, parties, and such. They are truly strangers who keep to themselves and don't engage with the local community... and very young.

Very similar behavior to Washington DC defense contractors.


I don't think this is true at all. At my school (CMU), Palantir was one of the big companies that students wanted to work for, along with Facebook and Google. I think they're just really good at recruiting and creating a brand.


While links are never impossible, I am ever optimistic and hope that their employees actually do watch out for the red flags they just spoke about on their blog two months ago.

"Every Palantirian is trained to look out for “red flags” at deployments that might indicate activities that are antithetical to our commitment to privacy and civil liberties."

http://www.palantir.com/2013/04/dont-just-trust-us&#x2F;


And are the employees told to report these red flags directly to independent third-parties for investigation?

It's an easy thing to say but I'm extremely skeptical about it in practice.

For instance, red flag- government is scaling up for 1000x the capacity that lawful warrants would generate. You report this, but who at Palantir would take action?


No they report them to their manager ... on the way to their exit interview.


Obviously your definition of (say) a privacy issue is correct, and nobody else is entitled to any different definition.


And every elected federal official in the United States takes an oath to defend the Constitution.


That's not limited to "elected" or "federal" officials.

U.S. Constitution, Art. VI, Clause 3 (emphasis added):

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.


Someone at Palantir has just explicitly denied this connection, for what it's worth.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2013/06/07/startup...

Relevant bit: "Palantir’s Prism platform is completely unrelated to any US government program of the same name. Prism is Palantir’s name for a data integration technology used in the Palantir Metropolis platform (formerly branded as Palantir Finance). This software has been licensed to banks and hedge funds for quantitative analysis and research."


I cannot believe the link between palantir and prism is by the mere NAME of the software package as alleged in this article. That's some weak journalism. I mean, just check out github while you're at it: https://github.com/search?q=PRISM&ref=cmdform


I think the link is that, in addition to creating software under the same name, they received early funding from the CIA, and their software serves the same general purpose of sifting through large amounts of disparate data from various sources.


I attended a conference in Montreal where Palantir demoed their software. They used a large amount of data on an ecoli outbreak to map out and track the point of origin. Simply because a company isn't public about all its activities and deals with "large amounts of disparate data" is not grounds to call for their cruxifixion. This story had brought out the absolute worst in HN commenters.


It's great that they showed a demo tracking a disease outbreak, but that doesn't really mean anything.

The company readily admits that their software has primarily been used in the defense and finance industries. They don't hide this fact, nor should they feel pressured to.

I'm not crucifying anybody, I was just pointing out that the OP's speculation was based on slightly more than just the name alone (but I agree, it's still pretty weak).


Hmmm, that makes it clearer why their CEO is at Bildeberg this year (http://news.rapgenius.com/The-bilderberg-group-list-of-atten...).

I once had a startup project (shot down by internal "concerns") to spin-off an intelligence software for social network exploration & analysis that I build at the company I worked for, I remember browsing through Palantir's portfolio and thinking they had quite the arsenal for surveillance and intelligence.

PS: Does this information being on RapGenius indicates something significant about their mid-term strategy?


It's already well known that RapGenius are trying to expand into a more generic document annotation service (see "Enterprise Genius").


I haven't seen this interview with him on Charlie Rose yet:

http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/10549


Yeah, the whole 'news' section is a cool use-case pivot on the unerlying tech/UI: http://news.rapgenius.com&#x2F;


Alexander Karp was interviewed by Charlie Rose[1]:

"Most of our business is in government, and it all involves both sides of this equation -- finding people who are up to essentially bad things..."

"So, let’s say you go to the market and you buy something. You talk on your cell phone, and you send an SMS. You send every little -- you write a report. All those are data, and massive scale, it is very hard for you to see that as a pattern.

So what is the pattern of Charlie Rose? Each Charlie Rose interacting with people that are up to no good?

And then it is very hard for me, the citizen of America, to look at the government and say, did they look at Charlie Rose because he was up to no good or did they look at Charlie Rose because they didn’t like his hair color?

And by the way, did they use Charlie Rose as a way to look at Charlie Rose’s audience and find out who is in the audience?"

[1]http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/10549

[2]http://www.charlierose.com/download/transcript/10549


This is our future. A fascist with asymmetrical hair standing in front of a hip, edgy bit of art, who's funded by a fascist who calls himself a libertarian, waxing eloquently about how good a person he is because the company he founded is protecting the shire by injecting the increasingly unaccountable security apparatus into every single aspect of our lives where they will enforce conformity.


I can't tell what you even mean by "fascist". The word has a specific meaning.

A good example of a fascist was Mussolini. An example of a fascist view is that the nation (which should be holy) has been taken over by degenerates, liberals, the weak and people of impure ancestries or ancestries which don't belong here, and that it must be purified through violence such as purges and wars of glory.


Personally, I consider the left-wing leadership of the country to be nihilists: they seek to gain self-esteem by destroying others' values (e.g. wealth, rights, etc.). They do it via egalitarian ideology. Hence, egalitarian nihilists.

If you have noticed a subtle ideological change between Democrats of the previous "generation" (such as Bill Clinton) and the "Young Turks" of the party (like Obama), this is the difference.

That said, I don't think this applies to the rank-and-file of intelligence community at large. They're too close to mainstream American culture to be nihilists. Any theories on why they would work to implement these kinds of spy systems would be appreciated. Maybe they have simply been drained of all critical thinking by the education system and just do what they're told since that's their job.


Such Randian nonsense. If the dems are such egalitarians and want to destroy the wealth of others, why do you have growing disparity and retain the Bush tax rates? And if you say Obama has more of this than Clinton, why are wealthy people paying less taxes now than they did in the 90s?


> Such Randian nonsense

What I said is my own opinion, didn't come from Rand.

All the supposed refutations of Rand online are laughably ridiculous, including the popular one by Huemer. Until you provide a reasonable one, please don't dismiss people by linking them to Rand. (And please never dismiss ideas by _falsely_ linking them to Rand, as you did in this case.)

As to all the other stuff you said: Obama can't set tax rates unilaterally.


> As to all the other stuff you said: Obama can't set tax rates unilaterally.

If you had been following "negotiations" with Congress (take late 2010 as an example) you'd know that the president basically did a song and dance where he started out pretending he wanted higher taxes and proceeded to leave things exactly the same.

He did not assert his strong position in that. If Congress literally did nothing, taxes would have been raised. He declined to fight for the tax-raising side of that argument and forfeited a superior negotiating position. If he really believed it in the beginning, he did not think highly enough of it to do what he could have.

Edit: removing trollish comment about Rand, because it's bad to flamebait. Let me just say that it was clear to me from your comment that you have been influenced by folks nearing the Rand side of the spectrum, and that you can cease to compare it with Rand but it still comes out awfully similar... Thus I don't hesitate to say, even after your objections, that the comment was very Randian, in the sense that it is Rand-like.


For all I know, Obama traded advocating higher taxes for getting Obamacare through.

A short list of partial evidence for what I said about Obama: Blocking the keystone pipeline, his foreign policy, Obamacare, attending a church for many years where the evil of America was explicitly preached, involvement with Bill Ayers, his explicit pragmatism (i.e., denial of any valid principles), his election being the first day he was proud of America (according to his wife).

Anyway, the "egalitarian-nihilist" label needs much broader observations and analysis to validate than any list I could give you. But that's some stuff I have a problem with.

> the comment was very Randian, in the sense that it is Rand-like.

That's simply untrue. Rand said that nihilism and egalitarianism are bad (among many other things). But we simply do not know if she would apply those labels to Obama. As an Objectivist, I can tell you that there are some things where her applying her philosophy is more straightforward if you understand it, but this is not one of them.

(The reason it is tricky is because Obama doesn't come out and say what he believes, and chances are, he doesn't have any specific opinion on these kinds of abstractions. So we have to infer what's going on in his mind from what he says and does.)


> For all I know, Obama traded advocating higher taxes for getting Obamacare through.

He had already signed the healthcare bill 9 months prior to the events I am talking about. And again, one must understand that he was in a position where if nobody did anything, the person favoring higher taxes would win. It took effort to get the outcome that we did.

> As an Objectivist,

Thanks for confirming.


I think Fascism is the best and closest term for a system of control that is emerging that hasn't been properly defined or given a catchy name yet. Fascism wasn't a bad word in the 30s, just like propaganda wasn't a bad word then.


You don't see much American patriotism in California. If you never see your country's flag throughout the day, you don't have fascism.


Likable people succeed in roles that put them in front of people? What a dystopian nightmare!


is this what stands for journalism now? taking random anonymous reader email, googling it casually, and then writing a story on it behind the facade of "oh please don't hold us responsible, we're just quoting random anonymous email"


Well, when the government keeps tens of billions of dollar worth of activities totally secret--not just the details of, but the very existence of--what are you supposed to do?

Wait until the NSA does a press release of everything it's doing?


Okay I may be nighmar-ishing here, but is it possible that since Peter Thiel owns/owned large chunk of Facebook and also owns Palantir that works for government contracts, is it possible that Thiel could have been passing by info from Facebook servers via Palantir to the Government?

Wouldn't that make sense? I mean, lets say you own Facebook so what you say needs to be programmed or Facebook employees get pink slips, simple. Is it possible that Government does not tap into Facebook servers, BUT it does contract Palantir that the owner owns Facebook at the same time and thats how Governement gets up to date access to Facebook servers?


The CIA's venture arm invested in Facebook and the political pressure is probably far greater than any pressure that small owners could generate (Thiel/In-q-tel owned a few percent by the time of the ipo)



it's a stronger link than the article supposes


Whenever Thiel talks about Palantir, I get a bit confused.

I wonder if he suffers from cognitive dissonance.

One of his most successful companies is a company that does big data analysis for the DOD (likely the Intelligence Community)...yet he is stridently libertarian - to the point where he is a Seasteader.

So I can't quite reconcile the two.


1. Many Libertarians give defense spending a free pass, calling defense the only essential function of government.

2. Libertarians are opposed to giving money to govt, not taking money from govt.


Yes...but the core of a libertarian is that they value their LIBERTY over anything else.

It can't just be that Thiel wants to make money. Would he be involved in a company that is systematically eroding the very liberties that he publicly claims to cherish, all for a few more hundreds of millions of dollars?

I doubt it.

So there must be something else going on - and I am genuinely interested.


A few months back I met a building contractor at a party outside of SV who was going on and on about installing "bullet proof glass" inside various areas of a tech company headquarters. I asked a few questions about the environs and it was clear it was the Palantir office he was talking about.

I've never heard a single good thing from my friends who had interviewed or had brushes with the company.

Do the employees get stock options or just U.S. Treasury bonds?


A decent number of Stanford CS undergrads/grads end up there.


[deleted]


Why would you disclose that publicly? That pretty much reads as: "Don't use Repustate" to me.


Palantir uses Linux, too. So I guess you can't use Linux now.


I wasn't boycotting his company because Palantir used them. (I'm not in his company's target demographic anyway) I was saying that it seems like a poor business strategy to badmouth clients because of an anoymous comment that somehow made it into a blog post. Especially when the evidence against Palantir consists of:

1. They have a project that happens to be named Prism.

2. They don't publicly disclose their own clients/operations.


Remind me not to ever buy something from you.


That's not how Palantir works. Palantir is a platform, if it were part of Prism the government would still be the one collecting and storing the data. They may have had a hand in setting the system up so that it integrates with that data but at the end of the day it would be no different than the government using IBM's or Oracle's big data tools.


Of course there's a link.

Palantir basically allows for analysis across federated data sources. It's a data fusion platform along the lines of other C4ISR programs.

One of those federated sources is now SNA (Social Network Analysis) and/or other Internet sources.

One way for Facebook to share information the gov't requests is through this: https://www.facebook.com/safety/groups/law/guidelines&#x2F;

This next part is speculation, but if you were servicing many of these requests, wouldn't you just create an API to help you out? You aren't getting paid (much? Note: "Cost Reimbursement" section in above link) to help them out.


I'd like to see that blurb about Fikri at the bottom rewritten multiple times over for each of the 205 people on the list that McCarthy bandied about during his Wheeling speech in 1950.

That story sounds very different when it can be used to describe the escapades of a free citizen, especially when the details of those escapades can be used as blackmail against them by another individual with an agenda.

What stops a politician with ties to the intelligence community from using this system to coerce others around him. This is the conversation we should be having, because this very real possibility is what makes these systems sound reprehensible to red-blooded terrorist hating 'mericans who generally defend these actions by the government in day-to-day conversations.


Do they hire H1B's? That would be a really quick clue as to whether or not they are doing work for NSA. None of my Indian friends know any H1B that works at Palantir, which is really odd, but maybe other people have different anecdotes.


It could also just be a moral choice. I don't hire H1Bs because I believe we have a sufficient talent pool here in America.


I would not use that for blanket decision making. The technology, just like much of IBM's entity relationship/NORA stuff that you can download via the IBM customer portal, is mostly declassified stuff that has applicability to fraud detection, pandemic/health outbreaks, and plain ole data analysis. Anyone could work on that stuff. Where you need people with a clearance is to actually touch the data - which means implementing/deploying the software, training their users with real data, and supporting it.


finally a topic comes up on HN that I'm an expert in, and yet I'm legally unable to talk about it.

... crap.


Which is also why Palantir folks don't talk about what they do.


you can talk about it... anonymously.


That's what throwaway accounts and VPN's are for.


Palantir may not be printing this on t-shirts, but they aren't that secretive about what they do.

Let's say you're an FBI agent with a warrant that allows you to spy on Joe Schmo, and any of his foreign contacts (not named individually). And maybe you're doing this because of ties to drug smuggling, so you're allowed to ignore the fourth amendment when dealing with some particular data source, but other sources are only allowed within the scope of the warrant.

Palantir (or at least one of their products) allows querying across those data sources within the bounds of the warrant. So rather than the good old days when "secure in their persons and papers" meant that you could actually keep your data private, with Palantir, the government has moved the position that until a human sees it, it doesn't count.


Anomaly Hunting: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/anomaly-hunting...;

Not to be confused with investigating.


In case you missed it. UPDATE: Startup Palantir Denies Its 'Prism' Software Is The NSA's 'PRISM' Surveillance System http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2013/06/07/startup...;


If I wrote a screenplay, then Palantir is exactly the name I would give the evil Mega Corp (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MegaCorp).


I've been following their repos for awhile now https://github.com/palantir what exactly is SYSMON anyway! monitoring tools indeed.


This is a ridiculous suggestion. The NSA employs an incredible concentration of some of the smartest people in their fields to work on analysis. I am certain they don't outsource their core purpose.


Palantir did develop a database to store scraped data from social media sites. According to Chamber of Commerce meetings, data was uploaded to it from HBGary and Berico.


Whether its Palantir or not, it does make perfect sense that the NSA would subcontract this work to a 3rd party. Someone is out there with this contract


I love how their hypothetical reads like an episode of 24.


been watching their repos for awhile now https://github.com/palantir


Guys, guys. Listen. They both start with a 'P'. We've cracked it. It's them. We can all unclench now.


What an embarrassing thread.




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