That was then, this is now: Palantir privacy edition

Data-analytics company Palantir Technologies Inc. is in talks to provide software to governments across Europe to battle the spread of Covid-19 and make strained health-care systems more efficient, a person familiar with the matter said.

The software company is in discussions with authorities in France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the person said, asking not to be identified because the negotiations are private…

European Union Commissioner Thierry Breton said Monday that the bloc is collecting mobile-phone data to help predict epidemic peaks in various member states and help allocate resources.

Palantir has signed a deal with a regional government in Germany, where it already has a 14 million euro ($15 million) contract with law enforcement in North Rhine-Westphalia, the person said. Palantir is also seeking a contract at a national level, the person said, but talks have stalled, the person added.

When a nation or company buys access to Palantir, it can use the data analytics software to pull far-flung digital information into a single repository and mine it for patterns.

Here is the full story.  From a distance it is difficult to evaluate these deals, but I will stick with my general claim that the anti-tech intellectuals have become irrelevant, and for the most part they know it.


Start giving people fines based on phone location/credit card payment and they will turn off their phones and pay cash. People don't need anti-tech intellectuals to start being anti-tech as soon as the government start abusing the information.

But cash will soon be outlawed. In fact, right now there's a silent run on Greek banks; I had a hard time convincing the bank manager to give me a couple of thousand euro in cash (necessary for the black market, if you want to avoid 24% VAT on transactions). Soon cash will be outlawed and everybody, even granny, will pay using their smart phone and some version of government sponsored crypto-currency.

How does the EU directive on privacy jive with the post by TC?

Have you talked to any millenial? Switching off their phones is something unthinkable for them.

And it so easily covers long term multi-million € contracts. Though with enough such publicity, it is quite possible that Palantir will lose its North Rhine-Westphalia law enforcement contract.

Man are you in heaven right now. So many ways to troll.

"Data-analytics company Palantir Technologies Inc. is in talks to provide software to governments across Europe to battle the spread of Covid-19 and make strained health-care systems more efficient, a person familiar with the matter said.

The software company is in discussions with authorities in France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the person said, asking not to be identified because the negotiations are private."

The translation from corporate speak to plain English is : sales people from Palantir is doing regular sales work to get more contracts on Europe. We have no sold anything at all yet but but telling the world we're in discussions with authorities from FR, DE, AU and CH helps to get more private funding to keep running our money losing gig after our indefinitely postponed IPO.

Also from Bloomberg (September 2019)

"...despite continued success scoring multi-year contracts with the Department of Homeland Security and private companies like Merck KGaA and Airbus SE, Palantir has struggled financially...The company has never turned an annual profit, and Palantir’s lofty reputation has suffered as concerns around the ethical use of its technology have increased."

Tyler is a bit slow and a reading of this blog shows he is very quick to fall for corporate PR - or a less (more?) charitable reading is he knows it is PR but he's paid to shill for it.

He's friends with Thiel. They want that deep state money and attention.

I think "friends" is being charitable. It's pretty clear from paying any attention to this blog that Tyler is basically Theil's marionette and Tyler knows what side his bread is buttered on. Pivoting his brand into being SV's loyal mouthpiece generally has been underway for some time.

At least TC is a well practiced marionette after decades of string pulling.

Who pulls your string, Lord-Admiral of the Pyrenees?

Bonus trivia: there's no navigable body of water in the Pyrenees, a mountain region bordering Spain and France if memory serves. So L-A of the P is a Napoleon-in-rags.

" there's no navigable body of water in the Pyrenees, a mountain region bordering Spain and France if memory serves."

For a suitably skilled seafarer mountains are nothing more than great petrified waves. That is why my family has kept the Lord-Admiralty of the Pyrenees since the 17th century - no other knows how to glide its peaks.

Disclaimer: I'm not anti-tech intellectual. Just a project manager in engineering consulting that knows a healthy profit margin is the base of business.

Someone forgot to tell Amazon.

Who is fully aware of how much revenue Amazon earns above its costs, before reinvesting that excess to increase Amazon's future revenue above costs total.

Pretty sure we all know that, but it doesn't particularly answer the question.

Did anyone ask a question?

Amazon's net margin is positive, thanks for worrying.

I think you missed Tyler's point. What's interesting here is not Palantir's conduct but Germany's, because of the shift in attitude toward individual privacy.

Germany's conduct or North Rhine-Westphalia conduct? There are national trends and regional trends.

This is gold! Using taxpayer money to undermine GDPR!

It's quite likely that the European governments are not bound by GDPR, and that since this is metadata, that it's not also covered.

Governments are bound by the law, which is neat. But if something doesn't have your name or personal details on it, GDPR doesn't matter.

As I understand it, anonymised data can still be subject to GDPR restrictions, if it is a) not for the purpose for which customers have supplied it, and b) you can infer customer identity.

You can't run some big genetics firm, gather loads of genotypes and phenotype/lifestyle data, then just release it as and when you please, simply because you've removed name and identity, even if you've aggregated it.

Palantir sells nation-state level surveillance-ware to big governments to monitor their people. I'm not anti-tech nor an intellectual. I just love my freedom and constitutionally limited government.

Hmm I hear they're calling mass surveillance by corporations "State Capacity Libertarianism" these days.

"State Capacity Libertarianism" is such terrible and unintuitive terminology that I can't even remember whether you're right or wrong.

The thing about this blog is all you little puppets just parrot whatever weirdo terminology Tyler comes up with - "state capacity libertarianism", "mood affiliation" - you're all little cultists.

@ Publius1776 - "I just love my freedom". - well, if you and your kind had a little less freedom, like in Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, the 'freedom-loving' (pun intended) countries like the USA, your country, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, UK, etc would have the happy outlook of the three Asian countries above, namely, hardly anybody with Covid-19 and life going on as before, albeit with more people wearing masks and social distancing. Just sayin'...

Greece is somewhere between the freedom loving countries and the Asian countries. We have a total lockdown here but you can easily get official permission to travel by sending a text message, unlike say in the Philippines where to go food shopping you need -- I kid you not-- a government official, the 'barangay captain' (like a neighborhood mayor of sorts), to accompany you. Since said captain accompanies many families, doesn't that make them a vector for infection? Seems to me it does. And PH president Duterte is now losing his poor people populist base, ordering his police a few days ago to shoot Manila slum residents who were rioting over the restrictions.

About that Singapore, reposting from another thread, breaking news (2 hour) -

"Singapore to close most workplaces except for essential services and key economic sectors in "circuit breaker" move to curb spread of #COVID19 spread, says PM Lee " Aka "If you're not a 'key worker', house arrest for you' comes to Sing.


Yes, they’ve recalled all citizens from abroad, thousands from infected areas.

This will be necessary to ensure they can track and trace in the interim before opening back up.

They’ll handle it and will be back to normal months before the West is

Maybe, maybe not. They're certainly not handling it without lock-down right now.

M already beat me to it.

Stalin was very "relevant" in 1918. Hitler was very "relevant" in 1936. Mao was quite "relevant" in 1943. Pol Pot was even more "relevant" in 1975.

Imagine the even greater things they could have done with something like Palantir's tracking software!

Every would-be authoritarian needs a scapegoat as someone to blame for seizing authoritarian power. Jews, the rich,
(preferably both), terrorists, etc:, etc. An economic shock might also suffice. What could be more perfect than a virus as an excuse to eliminate civil liberties and even cancel democratic elections?

I'm surprised you did not mention Zi, Putin or Maduro as one of your current role models.

The key to staying "relevant", apparently especially for bloggers, is to make sure you are getting attention. I fear this means going with the flow regardless of the consequences.

Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot never trended like Orange Jesus on FB

"unlike say in the Philippines where to go food shopping you need -- I kid you not-- a government official, the 'barangay captain' (like a neighborhood mayor of sorts), to accompany you"

Not so. In the hottest of hot spot infection areas or in areas where people don't have any money because there is no work, I think the local government is supposed to deliver food directly to people. Some communities have issued one "quarantine pass" per household that allows the holder to go out to purchase groceries or medicine. Others operate on more of an honor system and will warn people who are obviously loitering or not out buying groceries or medicine to go home.

Like everything in the country, this is enforced with varying degrees of strictness depending on where you are and whether you look like you are up to no good or not. The rules are not all that different from those in place in the SF Bay Area. The only difference is that I think even outdoor recreation is technically illegal in the Philippines for those areas under "enhanced community quarantine." Again, enforced with varying degrees of efficiency and rigor.

" I'm not anti-tech nor an intellectual. I just love my freedom and constitutionally limited government."


So you would rather see the economy destroyed by indefinite shutdown yet retain the privacy of your irrelevant location data?
Weird priorities...

Thanks. Your "relevance" just got bumped up a notch.

That was in response to the more-relevant-than-ever Publius1776.

Palantir offers an overpriced user interface to underlying open source software to do data analytics. Only unexperienced users would take it, plus you have all the privacy risks with the links to CIA and NSA from Palantir.

What will be used in the german speaking countries is voluntary proximity tracking apps based on the pepp initiative (

My [genuine] question is, where’s the boss?

Has he disappeared to New Zealand? And if so, don’t they have internet connections down there?

Cannot be too careful in these uncertain times.

There's always been a public health exception to the right of privacy. Technology just pushes the limits of the exception. Of course, it's an easy matter to prevent the type of surveillance that is being described here: don't take your smart phone with you everywhere you go. It's not as though we don't know that the smart phone is a tracking device. I assume the concern here is not to tracking the movements of someone who has been diagnosed with a contagion in order to identify others with whom she had contact, but to the potential for abuse of the information. After all, tech has a history of abusing information tech collects. Does stating the obvious make me "anti-tech"?

Everything is a trade-off. Do you think that "the potential for abuse of the information" is nearly as important as stopping epidemic without destroying the economy by shutdown?

That's lazy thinking. If everything was a trade off you would notice big time. I promise

What anti-tech intellectuals? Peter Thiel? "Tech" or the internet is a pretty marginal line of defense against COVID-19. Time to get the top talent working on useful stuff again, not Angry Birds and other useless or speculative apps.

Doesn't Palantir provide software for law enforcement to prevent terrorist attacks? Having a train engineer attack a hospital ship is the sort of thing that needs prevention too, though maybe a true lone wolf is impossible to detect.

"A train engineer intentionally drove a speeding locomotive off a track at the Port of Los Angeles because he was suspicious about the presence of a Navy hospital ship docked there amid the coronavirus crisis, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

The locomotive crashed through a series of barriers and fences before coming to rest more than 250 yards (230 metres) from the U.S. Navy Hospital Ship Mercy on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a release.

Nobody was hurt.

Eduardo Moreno, 44, was charged with one count of train wrecking, prosecutors said. It wasn’t immediately known if he has an attorney.

Moreno acknowledged in two separate interviews with law enforcement that he intentionally derailed and crashed the train near the Mercy, according to the criminal complaint.

“You only get this chance once. The whole world is watching. I had to,” Moreno told investigators, according to the complaint. “People don’t know what’s going on here. Now they will.”

Given how little coverage there's been of this incident, the guy must be a longtime Trump-hater.

Is that what our friend Mohammed bin Salman uses?

Oh sure, next to no one today even qualifies as "anti-tech" but these are early days:

by the time any effective treatment or vaccine for CV-19 emerges from someone's chemistry set, the stark recognition of the distinct roles technology played in disseminating the plague (think for two seconds: commercial international and domestic passenger airline flights throughout February and March 2020, thorough unreadiness on the ground [and at sea] worldwide to deal with a plague pandemic) could well become normative and prompt a global re-think on exactly how mindless and uncritical applications of science and technology promoted or permitted the pandemic's spread.

Presently, Holy Science is only officiating over dread, disease, death, and blight (backhoes are arguably an improvement over lone shovels): at least in the public spotlight, Holy Science is doing a damned poor job of substantively responding in any timely fashion as thousands upon thousands croak.

Feyerabend's arguments concerning State and Science will remain just as relevant after the plague has passed ("naturally") and may well finally gather momentum they arguably deserve. ("Holy Science pandemic scandals" have barely had time to emerge yet.)

Of course, expecting that the manner in which people act in a crisis be consistent with business as usual is not reasonable. Nobody suggested that the US doesn't actually care about civil liberties just because governors are enforcing lockdowns

A few comments on this post, and the pro-tech view in general:

1. The most relevant big tech company right now is almost certainly Amazon, and that is because it is simultaneously a world class tech firm, and a world class non-virtual, physical goods firm. While Silicon Valley et al. certainly make it easier, safer, and more enjoyable to stay at home, they are not, for the most part, leading the charge against C-19. And, indeed, for companies like Amazon and Instacart to remain relevant, they will have to solve basic physical problems like maintaining a high level of productivity, while ensuring that work environments, and distribution networks, are safe and sanitary.

2. The United States has been spending close to twenty percent of GDP on health care for many years. But despite the enormous economic opportunity presented by this market, tech companies have failed to transform public health with big data, machine learning etc. Given the combination of modern IT, the latest medical knowledge, and the enormous amount of data created by hospitals and individual health apps, it should have been possible for advanced countries to accurately scope the pandemic without the aid of direct testing. But that didn’t happen. And while there are presumably many reasons for this failure, latent, and justifiable privacy concerns are probably an important part of the story. In MR parlance, Edward Snowden’s status is going up, up, and away.

3. Snowden is also highly relevant because C-19 has shown that even strong, democratic societies are a bungled emergency away from being at high risk of becoming intrusive surveillance states (as opposed to America’s status quo of being a passive one). Consequently, even if, like me, one fully supports strict social distancing, and other dramatic restrictions on personal and organizational freedom, the technology enabled downsides of greater government power cannot be ignored. Furthermore, in light of the tech world’s consistent failure to solve the cyber security problem, individuals must ask not only whether they trust a company or government to gather and store their data, but whether they trust the people who might very well steal it.

Overall, C-19 has highlighted the considerable strengths of big tech, while exposing its significant limitations.

[Relatedly, I wonder whether the police could use the abundance of home technology with passive sensors to monitor levels of domestic violence, and provide greater protection to victims. Lots of tradeoffs here, but worth thinking about as a greater share of life takes place behind closed doors. And also note that one of the biggest issues, again, is trust; in this case of both law enforcement and tech companies]

I remember PT squaring Palentir with libertarianism by saying that if the state can't use sophisticated means of controlling you it will use crude methods. Thought about that as I'm sitting at home under quasi-house arrest while South Koreans are watched from space as they go about their normal lives.

If they already know it, why you gotta be so mean?

This is a narrative warfare post. Tyler is testing out the role of schilling for Peter Thiel. Palantir does text analytics on whatever point you think you can make in the comments.

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