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.
Not that it excuses any of it but they really don't try to hide it.
"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"
Now I'm not saying Gotham isn't used by gov't, I just wanted to explain what the word actually stood for.
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...)
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/ )
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.
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.
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.
There's no way you could ever realistically prove your position (ditto the parent).
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.
(I do not have an opinion on the morality of working for Palantir.)
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.
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 .
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'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.
Simply put, they said that if you don't feel comfortable working on a project, you just say so, and get moved elsewhere.
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's how the military does it after all, even in very technically demanding occupations.
Isn't that true for almost any moral stance? Should I stop being a vegetarian because someone else will eat the meat anyway?
That part on its own is not enough. Only when:
1. someone else will do <the job>
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.
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.
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.
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"
Now that I think about it, calling it Palantir is ridiculously apt.
All are very interesting challenges.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That sounds like a description people would attach to Blackwater.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
> 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/)
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.
Not conspiracy theory or speculation, all public info.
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.
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.
Very similar behavior to Washington DC defense contractors.
"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."
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?
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.
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."
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).
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?
"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?"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Wait until the NSA does a press release of everything it's doing?
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?
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.
2. Libertarians are opposed to giving money to govt, not taking money from govt.
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.
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?
1. They have a project that happens to be named Prism.
2. They don't publicly disclose their own clients/operations.
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/
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.
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.
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.
Not to be confused with investigating.