As if we don’t have enough to worry about from Trump and the coronavirus already, there’s a data-mining company called Palantir, founded by gazillionaire crony Peter Thiel, digging up and providing information about us and COVID-19 to the federal government.
April 25, 2020

Reporter Spencer Ackerman appeared on AM Joy today to expand on a frightening article in The Daily Beast about Thiel and Palantir’s involvement in the creation of a government coronavirus data platform.

A top donor to conservative causes and the first outside investor in Facebook, Thiel was, according to The Wall Street Journal, instrumental in pushing the social networking giant to allow politicians to lie in advertisements on the platform. It’s a policy that many outside observers believe will help the Trump campaign—which Thiel has again pledged to support.

Palantir, which Thiel helped found—and still retains a sizeable stake in — has watched its already-lucrative government business skyrocket in the Trump era.

Now, as Ackerman explained to host Joy Reid, Palantir is integrating data for the Department of Health and Human Services “from a staggering amount of data sets from around the country.”

ACKERMAN: Palantir isn’t saying anything on the record about this contract, Joy. What we’ve found is that Palantir is building the Department of Health and Human Services a platform to integrate data from a staggering amount of data sets from around the country. HHS says 187 data sets, basically things like supply chain management for hospitals, bed space in hospitals dealing with coronavirus, information as well on where new instances of the outbreak may be and their intensity. What we don't have a clear picture on is what access Palantir itself will have to that information.

Reid noted that Palantir has previously worked for HHS to detect Medicare fraud, for the FBI in criminal probes, the Department of Homeland Security to screen air travelers and to keep tabs on immigrants. Given Thiel’s stance against truth on Facebook, Reid pointed out, “This is not a guy who's on the side of the public.”

Ackerman agreed.

ACKERMAN: Palantir is basically the weaponization of what Shoshana Zuboff at Harvard Business School calls surveillance capitalism. All of the data that we generate from nearly everything we do, particularly in an economic sphere these days, all of it being digital, has a huge amount of implication for our privacy. And what that really means, it has a huge implication for our freedom.

Palantir has built, with CIA start-up money from its In-Q-Tel investment arm, a really incredible suite of tools that a variety of both law enforcement, intelligence, military, commercial and civilian government sector entities use to monitor a tremendous amount of what we do. The implications of this are really profound and they're only going to grow the more data we all generate.

Under Donald Trump, it's really been super-sized. They've gotten something like upwards of $800 million already in federal contracting money, and this one particular tool they're sending to HHS, this thing called Foundry, we found a contract for that basically a drop in the bucket for Palantir, $7.5 million, but now what we all have to find out is where that data actually goes and what happens to that data when they no longer need it. The history of surveillance over the past generation is that once you build these tools and the government has them, they don't want to give them up, and they migrate into being a permanent fixture of government life and activity.

That’s the same HHS, by the way, where the coronavirus response team is led by a former dog breeder and the spokesman is a racist conspiracy theorist.

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