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Palantir, the War On Terror's Secret Weapon

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the i-blame-the-elves dept.

Government 276

hessian tips a story in BusinessWeek about Palantir, a system designed to aggregate disparate data points gathered by intelligence agencies and weave them into a more useful narrative. The article summarizes it thus: "Depending where you fall on the spectrum between civil liberties absolutism and homeland security lockdown, Palantir’s technology is either creepy or heroic." "The day Fikri drives to Orlando, he gets a speeding ticket, which triggers an alert in the CIA's Palantir system. An analyst types Fikri's name into a search box and up pops a wealth of information pulled from every database at the government's disposal. There's fingerprint and DNA evidence for Fikri gathered by a CIA operative in Cairo; video of him going to an ATM in Miami; shots of his rental truck's license plate at a tollbooth; phone records; and a map pinpointing his movements across the globe. All this information is then displayed on a clearly designed graphical interface that looks like something Tom Cruise would use in a Mission: Impossible movie."

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Hello (5, Insightful)

Titan1080 (1328519) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175714)

Big Brother.

Re:Hello (4, Funny)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175730)

He prefers to be called "Lord Sauron" now.

Re:Hello (5, Informative)

Opyros (1153335) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175780)

Nay! He does not use his right name, nor permit it to be spelt or spoken.

Re:Hello (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38175846)

Federal Reserve Corp???

Re:Hello (2)

migla (1099771) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175862)

Mister Mxyzptlk, is that you?

Re:Hello (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38176118)

I don't get it. Maybe I need to set my browser to right-to-left character order.

Re:Hello (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38176102)

Nay! He does not use his right name, nor permit it to be spelt or spoken.

Hussein?

Re:Hello (3, Interesting)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175962)

Does that make Osama bin Laden Bilbo Baggins?

Re:Hello (2)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175734)

Creepy, definitely creepy.

Re:Hello (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38175740)

Big Brother.

1984... is freaking real

Re:Hello (4, Funny)

SpzToid (869795) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175948)

And like every other I.T. project it is behind schedule. Probably way over budget too, but who knows?

At least Mark Zuckerberg is helping out in the free sector, showing everyone how well it can be done. If nothing else his company sets the bar for us all to see.

Re:Hello (5, Interesting)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176104)

Big Brother.

1984... is freaking real

I wouldn't be so sure about that. If you read the article, it starts out with the story of a suspicious character by the name of Mike Fikri. Fikri has bought a one-way ticket from Egypt to Florida, he's making bank withdrawals from Russia, talking to suspicious people in Syria, scoping out crowded places at Disneyworld. The scenario lays out something a lot like the lead up to 9/11: lots of individual actions that alone mean nothing, but together make a huge red flag and make this guy a Person of Interest. And Palantir can allow the government to spot this guy before he executes his plot. And you start thinking, wow, if this technology really spotted this guy, maybe it's worth thinking seriously about it. And then the article's punchline: "Fikri isn’t real—he’s the John Doe example Palantir uses in product demonstrations that lay out such hypothetical examples."

Here's the problem with all these liberty-vs-security debates. Before we get into the argument about just how much personal liberty we're willing to give up for security, let's first establish that the proposed measures would actually make us safer. Does any of this security theatre actually work? If torture isn't an effective interrogation technique- and all of the available evidence strongly suggests that it is not- we don't need to have a debate about whether it's moral to torture someone to save lives. If torture doesn't work, then the left, right, and centre should all be able to agree that we shouldn't torture. Similarly, has all of this government eavesdropping actually produced useful leads in the War on Terror? If so, then we can have a debate about the merits of something like Palantir. But if after ten years the government still can't point to a single credible case of where massive, indiscriminate domestic surveillance has spotted a credible threat from a terrorist, well, there's no need to even debate the civil rights aspect of it. It's just a waste of resources regardless of whether it's justifiable or not.

Basically, the War on Terror proponents want to engage you in a debate that goes like this: "Aren't you willing to give up just a little liberty for a lot of security?" It's a reasonable proposition for anyone but a hardcore libertarian, so that's a debate they can win with many people. So if you engage them in that discussion, you're basically ceding the argument. They're going to win over the majority of the people every time. But the debate we need to be having first is, "Are all of these invasive, expensive measures you're proposing actually going to make us safer at all?"

Or look at it this way. A guy comes up to you with a handful of beans and says, "These are Magic Antiterrorism Beans. They cost a billion dollars but they'll keep you safe from terrorists forever. Isn't that a small price to pay for security?" Before you start haggling over the price, wouldn't you want to be sure that the beans actually worked?

Re:Hello (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38175824)

WARN: THERE IS ANOTHER SYSTEM

Been going that way for a while. (5, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175854)

I think the summary is wrong in one aspect.

The article summarizes it thus: "Depending where you fall on the spectrum between civil liberties absolutism and homeland security lockdown, Palantirâ(TM)s technology is either creepy or heroic."

Fuck "homeland security lockdown". Think more about who has access to that information and whether you trust THEM with this kind of information about your daughter.

Do you believe that there are more terrorists in the USofA than there are perverts who would have access to that system?

Re:Been going that way for a while. (5, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175994)

Do you believe that there are more terrorists in the USofA than there are perverts who would have access to that system?

Yes. Yes, I do. The whole "pervert around every corner just waiting to rape YOUR DAUGHTER!" argument is every bit as exploitative and dishonest as terrorism scare-mongering.

Re:Been going that way for a while. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38176062)

Do you believe that there are more terrorists in the USofA than there are perverts who would have access to that system?

Yes. Yes, I do. The whole "pervert around every corner just waiting to rape YOUR DAUGHTER!" argument is every bit as exploitative and dishonest as terrorism scare-mongering.

Sounds like you've never been around Catholic priests then.

Must be nice wherever you live. (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176106)

Yes. Yes, I do.

Strange, because the statistics show 88,097 cases of forcible rape reporting in 2009 in the USofA.
http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/data/table_02.html [fbi.gov]

Now, how many deaths by terrorists in the USofA in 2009?
Zero.

88,097 vs 0.
And yet you believe that the system will be good enough to keep out the perverts who would abuse it.

Re:Must be nice wherever you live. (4, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176128)

How many of those forcible rapes were by intelligence agents who used their work tools as part of the rape, over the past ten years?

Now how many deaths by terrorists in the same time period?

Nice try. (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176206)

How many of those forcible rapes were by intelligence agents who used their work tools as part of the rape, over the past ten years?

So, from 11-26-2001 until 11-26-2011 (10 years) you want me to provide you with statistics for forcible rape?

Why can't you provide them? After all, that is your new claim, isn't it?

Now how many deaths by terrorists in the same time period?

Again, from 11-26-2001 through 11-26-2011 (10 years) ....

Oh, I see what you were trying to do. You were trying to get the WTC attacks included to make the numbers look more favourable to your new claim.

Except you didn't realize that they had happened more than 10 years ago.

Anyway, I've already supported my position with the statistics. If you want to change your position to include the WTC attacks then you're going to have to do your own research on rape statistics for whatever time frame you finally settle upon.

Remember, statistics first. Then opinions.
You run into problems when you get that backwards.

Re:Must be nice wherever you live. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38176144)

Really, you can skip over the 9/11 terrorist attacks and claim there we 0 deaths by terrorists in 2009?!

Re:Must be nice wherever you live. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38176192)

9/2011! NOT 2009/11!

Re:Been going that way for a while. (4, Insightful)

migla (1099771) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176154)

Do you believe that there are more terrorists in the USofA than there are perverts who would have access to that system?

Yes. Yes, I do. The whole "pervert around every corner just waiting to rape YOUR DAUGHTER!" argument is every bit as exploitative and dishonest as terrorism scare-mongering.

I understood the point differently:
The potential of misuse by idiot government thugs/bureaucrats and thereby trouble for people is greater than the terrorist threat.

Maybe if this is just a CIA thing, where they all are real smart professionals, it wouldn't be a widespread problem (unless ones views differ from those of the CIA).

But in general, a huge problem about this new big brother society of ours is that the people at the monitors are security guards and police officers. Have you seen those? I wouldn't let those be in charge of filming everybody all the time. There's too many stupid jerks there who'd circulate stuff they find amusing.

Re:Been going that way for a while. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38176034)

I doubt very many creeps would have easy access to this; however, I don't doubt that something like this will be used far far far more often in silencing dissent in our corrupt economy than it will in defending us from the occasional sociopath

Re:Been going that way for a while. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38176204)

I think the summary is wrong in one aspect.

The article summarizes it thus: "Depending where you fall on the spectrum between civil liberties absolutism and homeland security lockdown, Palantirâ(TM)s technology is either creepy or heroic."

Fuck "homeland security lockdown". Think more about who has access to that information and whether you trust THEM with this kind of information about your daughter.

Do you believe that there are more terrorists in the USofA than there are perverts who would have access to that system?

Yes.

Re:Hello (4, Insightful)

u38cg (607297) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175960)

This quote, from the very end, is interesting:

Thiel...says civil liberties advocates should welcome Palantir. âoeWe cannot afford to have another 9/11 event in the U.S. or anything bigger than that,â he says. âoeThat day opened the doors to all sorts of crazy abuses and draconian policies.â

There is something in that, I think. You can argue all you like about rights and what makes just law, but the fact is such events tend to drive the national mood squarely towards security over civil liberty.

Re:Hello (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38176090)

Yes, but that relies on the assumption that these systems will meaningfully prevent future events, when the reality is likely that they do little more than add noise to the system. Also, it doesn't make all that much sense, because it is a draconian policy that will certainly be crazily abused.

Re:Hello (4, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176098)

You can argue all you like about rights and what makes just law, but the fact is such events tend to drive the national mood squarely towards security over civil liberty.

While true, I don't think appeasement is the right way to handle the problem. For one thing, no matter the sales hype, there is no way that this system can guarantee there won't be any more major attacks (hell, their own promotional example relies on the bad guy being stupid enough to get a speeding ticket, as if a dedicated terrorist won't be doing everything he can be appear to be law abiding).

So, we install Big Brother, a major attack still eventually gets through and now the baseline for new crazy draconian abuses is just that much higher to start with. But in the mean-time before that all goes down, our entire society suffers the knock-on effects of living in a surveillance state.

Re:Hello (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38176108)

Also note a system like Palantir has obvious, enormous potential for civil rights abuses...and Thiel's a libertarian.

Re:Hello (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38176212)

Now if only they could manipulate the information to incriminate any dissidents, they could automatically influence any decision-making. The next step would be to influence education and media, to help us love Big Brother. I think, that what we will see is actually "Big Sister" since a female model seems like it is more likely to appeal to both genders.

The Intersect (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38175728)

Soon: The contents of Palantir are sent in a coded email to a wage-slave computer tech at a large big box electronics store. Hijinks ensue.

Sounds like Google... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38175732)

...to me. Collate their combined services and presence on the web, and you'll know "everything about anyone".

Re:Sounds like Google... (4, Insightful)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175838)

...to me. Collate their combined services and presence on the web, and you'll know "everything about anyone".

Google is not empowered to use force against the populace, nor to maintain order, nor to enact law. The Government is. There is a subtle difference.

Re:Sounds like Google... (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175914)

Google is not empowered to use force against the populace, nor to maintain order, nor to enact law. The Government is. There is a subtle difference.

So, they depend of the monopoly of force that the state holds for their force- and order-needs. They need to take the time consuming detour of lobbying for the laws they need.

Subtle difference indeed. Depending on the issue, one or the other of these overlords is the worse evil.

Goverments can at least sometimes, in some places, do things that are actually the right thing to do for the people.

Re:Sounds like Google... (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175940)

ng...

Maybe I wasn't being clear just then..(?)

What I meant was that if a corporation does good by the people, it's because that is good for their bottom line, but, at least in principle, an elected government can dish out the will of the people, for the sake of dishing out the will of the people.

Re:Sounds like Google... (3, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175942)

More like "Google on steroids", with access to non public data as well as public.

Re:Sounds like Google... (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176100)

FWIW, I suspect that Google has lots of non-public data.

But they have a better track record for being helpful to people in general than the government has of recent decades. And they aren't allowed to directly use force. Both leave me feeling less suspicious of Google.

This is a bit unfair to the government. The job that they should be doing does require that they occasionally act in unpleasant manners using force as an argument. I just don't feel that they have been attending to their proper job, and that they have instead been using their force and rule making capability to advantage one proportion of their constituency over another. This, in a government, is malfeasance. They are also guilty of misfeasance, i.e., not properly performing their jobs. (Failure to resolve the budget problem is an example of misfeasance rather than malfeasance.)

I should be clear that when I describe the actions of the government in terms of criminal acts, the criminal acts are not necessarily something that the judicial system would recognize as criminal. They are things that *I*, personally, consider criminal. And though I use the term government, I actually mean the people holding office in the government. E.g., at the recent civil disobedience in Davis, CA I feel that the officer that sprayed the demonstrators with pepper spray should be charged with assault, and that the other police who just stood around should be arraigned as accessories before the fact. The judicial system does not appear to be of the same opinion. (You will note that I do not call it the justice system.)

This springs to mind (5, Funny)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175738)

Re:This springs to mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38175928)

All seeing eye?

http://www.theonion.com/video/obama-axes-pentagon-plan-to-build-billion-dollar-t,14351/

Who is the one pulling the jokes here? (4, Interesting)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175742)

Well, I hope jokes.

For years we have been joking that 1984 is not a guide. Now it seems either someone being paid to develop this has a sense of humor or has decided to up their game. No longer will 1984 be the guide, they are out to outdo the Dark Lord Sauron himself. Though, Tolkien was trying to recreate the lost myths of Britain, and by that reasoning LotR would be our past... Has anyone noticed any recent appointees or elected officials seemingly always wearing a plain gold ring?

Re:Who is the one pulling the jokes here? (3, Informative)

SerpentMage (13390) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175806)

it will not work worth a damm! because yet again americans think this is a technology problem. what do i offer as proof? read the recent right wing case in germany. these criminals lived ten years off the grid and murdered 8 people in cold blood without so much as a clue. they did it because they borrowed one id after another. but hey why let facts get in the way of an awesome computer program that is as useful as a paperweight.

Palantir is *VERY* appropriate (4, Insightful)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175866)

Actually, now that I think about it, it is very appropriate. IIRC, the system was created for aggregating information on people who are not American Citizens, and coded to ignore and discard all data it received on American Citizens, but management removed that functionality because there was no oversight over them. Although created to be used by Good as of old a Palantir might have been used by the Lords of Gondor to track the affairs of neighboring lands, the system was taken and used for evil--indeed, one could even say that the prospect of visions within it corrupted the minds of those who watched, as with Denathor.

Re:Who is the one pulling the jokes here? (2)

notmyusualnickname (1221732) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175956)

Has anyone noticed any recent appointees or elected officials seemingly always wearing a plain gold ring?

No. It's a ring of invisibility, after all...

Re:Who is the one pulling the jokes here? (2, Funny)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175968)

Most people call it a "wedding band". Coincidental resemblance? You decide.

Re:Who is the one pulling the jokes here? (2)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176112)

Has anyone noticed any recent appointees or elected officials seemingly always wearing a plain gold ring?

Well, you wouldn't notice them when they had the ring on, would you?

Re:Who is the one pulling the jokes here? (2)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176168)

Oh come on. It's a system designed by geeky engineers. They gave it a cute name. That doesn't mean that the government is equivalent to a fallen angel bent on dominating the world.

All they're doing here is collating the info they already have. You can object to them gathering info, but how is it remotely sane to complain about them efficiently using the info they've collected? Are you really claiming that our liberties should be protected by a mess of paperwork?

Very coo that... (4, Informative)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175762)

...the submitter linked to the one-page printer version. The full version of TFA spreads out over six page. I went through those six pages looking for a screenshot of the software, but there were none. So if you are going to read it (I must be new here) then stick to the printer version as submitted.

Thanks, hessian!

Deeply creepy (5, Insightful)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175770)

...and the cries of an outraged populace are stunning in their absence. Sad days, for sure.

Re:Deeply creepy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38176084)

Outrage?

I once would have been outraged. But now I know the system better. I understand its idiosyncracies. I understand the ways it's corrupt. I know how to defeat the tracking and I know how to abuse it.

And as my leaders have stopped caring about the rule of law I've stopped caring about it as well.

I'm no longer outraged, I feel mildly enthusiastic every time I read another story like this. It represents more empty confidence in this countries leaders and more holes for me to slip into and hide.

I, once an honest man, am now presented with a chance at true freedom.

Freedom to steal what I want. Freedom to do as I please. Frankly I'm quite pleased.

Re:Deeply creepy (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176170)

Why should I be outraged over this? There's plenty of bad stuff going on in this country to be upset over. Having the government develop a system to efficiently collate the data they already have doesn't seem like a bad thing at all.

And everything falls into place when you remember (2)

unity100 (970058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175772)

What 'Palantir' is in lord of the rings -> a vehicle for sauron to pry out and seek for the ringbearer and its allies.

Re:And everything falls into place when you rememb (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175876)

Yet also a method for Aragorn to challenge Sauron, to draw his attention from the ringbearer at a critical time.

Re:And everything falls into place when you rememb (1)

migla (1099771) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176020)

Hi guys! Is this the meeting at the docks? About the revolution? You have my ... [looks around for axe, sword or bow] ... camera and pen.

We don't have an individual ringbearer, do we? We have a lot of them, distributed, decentralized.

Re:And everything falls into place when you rememb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38175902)

No. The seven seeing stones were originally used by the rulers of Arnor and Gondor for communication and intelligence gathering (save for one that was not in accord with the other six and looked back West over the sea).

Sauron captured the Ithil stone when Minas Ithil fell, and thereafter the remaining stones (those not lost over the years) were not used for fear of what they might reveal to Sauron.

Until the end of the Third Age, that is, when Saruman came to occupy Isengard and began using the Orthanc stone which he found there, and thus coming to Sauron's direct attention and direction (until Saruman's treason against both the Sauron and the White Council). And also during the stewardship of Denethor II in Gondor, wherein his striving with Sauron's will contributed to Denethor's rapid aging and mental deterioration.

Re:And everything falls into place when you rememb (1)

HiThere (15173) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176158)

Well, if you want to get technical they were originally used in Numenor for communication among the great houses. We have no idea how many originally existed, but only nine were brought by ship when the continent? Large Island? sank. These were originally used by the lords of the survivors for communication, and only later were they lodged in towers (after many had been lost). At the time of the "Lord of the Rings" only 3 were known to be surviving. And only one of those was usable by the end of the book. Even that one would bend itself to look only at Orthanc unless the mind had great fixity of purpose. (It was stated that this was because it had been used to look in that direction so often, so I don't think the fall of Sauron would have changed things. It was more wear grooves than compulsion by that time, though originally it was entrapment by Sauron.)

Re:And everything falls into place when you rememb (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176180)

And Saturn is a planet, therefore my car must be a planet!!! Now I just need to figure out why my Android doesn't look even remotely human.

Getting the data is the hard part (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175774)

Searching through already obtained information is a solved problem, getting the data is the hard part. So how exactly are they planning to get a warrant on all of this again?

By purchasing it. (2)

khasim (1285) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175830)

A lot of the data can be purchased from the private companies (non-governmental agencies) collecting it.

Phone records with location data.
Rental records.
And so forth.

I wonder how long it will be before private citizens can form businesses whose sole purpose will be license plate recording near their homes/offices. And maybe facial recognition. And then selling that information to the government.

Re:Getting the data is the hard part (1)

rev0lt (1950662) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176200)

If it was a solved problem, you wouldn't see so much companies investing in data search and tagging. Search through normalized data may be a solved problem, but even then not when you have the data spread across hundreds of different systems. Harvesting data ususally isn't the bottleneck, extracting the useful bits of data in a timely fashion is.

You're reading a Slashvertisement (0)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175776)

Crib notes: this is a description of what a Palantir system could do in TLA Wet Dream Land, not what it does do. Palantir is a product, not a system: the article might as well say "SQL".

Re:You're reading a Slashvertisement (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38175828)

Fikri isn’t real -- he’s the John Doe example Palantir uses in product demonstrations that lay out such hypothetical examples.

wtf, are the editors asleep?

Anything... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38175784)

An other technical solution for a faulty foreign policy problem.

Awesome! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38175786)

I can't wait until this War on Terror is over and there is no more terrorism. Remember when the USA had a drug problem and it declared War on Drugs and now you can't buy drugs anymore? It's going to be just like that, right?

(apologies to Get Your War On [mnftiu.cc] )

Love the use of the name.... (5, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175792)

can't wait to see the all seeing eye, can only be around the corner.

Who would have thought that the US Government was Sauron? The same monster which consumes over four trillion dollars of our work certainly is a monster of epic proportion. No wonder that they now even feel the need to take mythic names for what they do.

Who needs Skynet when we have all sorts of fantasy names to assign the latest abuse of our rights by our government. The US defeated (or outlasted) communism of the Soviet Union for what, a Soviet Union style government masquerading as a Republic. From control exerted over industry to health care its nearly complete, we even get the same choice in our elections, which is to say none. Vote for whomever the government has approved from these two sides of the same coin.

Oh, ignore the guy behind the curtain; in your bedroom.

Occupy Wall Street was too many miles North of where it should been, and targeting the wrong foe. Just as the Tea Party figured out and OWS was only hinting at, the real problem in the US isn't the rich and corporations but the politicians who use their position to empower the rich and corporations all the while securing themselves their position

Re:Love the use of the name.... (0)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175966)

Who would have thought that the US Government was Sauron?

Pretty much every productive member of US society.

Hmmm (3, Interesting)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175798)

1. Integrates multiple, disparate global databases and extracts information from them like magic.
2. Combines text, numeric data, and multimedia as if they were ingredients in a cake recipe.
3. Has a UI that looks just like something from a Hollywood movie.
4. Designed and implemented by the government.

Add that its name is derived from a fantasy novel, and why, yes, I do believe that this story is absolutely true.

Re:Hmmm (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38176008)

This. I was thinking exactly the same thing, but with a caveat: the company, not the government, is behind this.

On the one hand, the intelligence community thrives on producing disinformation. Putting on a show of omniscience is in their interest: it hypes their efficiency and productivity when budget considerations come around, and it scares the opposition, very likely in that order of importance.

On the other hand, the article reads more as a press release for Palantir Technologies (which may or may not be a front company or intel-community spin-off). The panegyric of Thiel and Karp in the article add to that suspicion: there's a great deal of effort spent on making these guys Hollywood-style geniuses; all that's missing is for one of them to be a race car driver or test pilot in his spare time. I'm surprised they didn't hire Derek Flint, too. Regardless, the company did the dev work and GUI, not the government: point (4) is invalid.

For those wanting screenshots of the GUI, see http://blog.palantirtech.com/category/palantir/page/2/ [palantirtech.com]

Not the stuff of "Mission Impossible" dreams by a damned sight. More like "Bloomberg meets elementary-school mind-mapping software." The real work, though, seems to have been put into integrating information from banks and other forms of payment (one of the guys used to work for PayPal) to track cash flows through networks of opponents.

Speaking of PayPal and Palantir's connections to other online businesses, did anyone notice that they're operating out of Facebook's old offices?

My favorite quote from the article:

Thiel, who sits on the board and is an avowed libertarian, says civil liberties advocates should welcome Palantir. “We cannot afford to have another 9/11 event in the U.S. or anything bigger than that,” he says. “That day opened the doors to all sorts of crazy abuses and draconian policies.” In his view, the best way to avoid such scenarios in the future would be to provide the government the most cutting-edge technology possible and build in policing systems to make sure investigators use it lawfully.

they were part of Team Themis with Berico + HBGary (4, Informative)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176042)

look up any of the stories on Team Themis, Bank of America, Glenn Greenwald, etc. they were planning to character-assassinate people who were sympathetic to anonymous, including journalists.

Re:Hmmm (2)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176150)

Regardless, the company did the dev work and GUI, not the government: point (4) is invalid.

OK fine, some random company whose sole customer is the government. What's the difference? The story reads like an episode of the Twilight Zone. "I have invented a computer that can solve all the world's problems." I was actually expecting a zinger at the end -- "the board of directors voted the computer to be the new CEO."

Practical use (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175800)

Could this tools be used to see what do politicians, the top 1%, judges and the people in high ranks in the government agencies? you know, the "we the people" could give a good use of it to make sure that the ones they elect do right their job.

Re:Practical use (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38175868)

Actually, yes. There's a free-to-use Palantir instance set up that lets you do just that.

https://www.analyzethe.us/

Re:Practical use (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38175884)

They do have this: https://analyzethe.us/

I have not looked in to what data sets they have in there.

Re:Practical use (0)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175890)

Of course it could.

It may be designed not to. We have special controls in some of our electronic systems to stop government workers from looking up info on them--e.g. in State, the passport data system has a system that flags high-profile requests. (There was a story about it last year.)

Also, NSA may be conflicted about the idea of tracking some of those people. Tracking the intelligence committee, for example, would prevent intelligence leaks but also raises a big risk of (1) temptation for blackmail and (2) having their programs shut down.

LOL (3, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175802)

The problem with the 'all-seeing eye' is that it sees everything and is overloaded with irrelevant details. After the next major terrorist attack the government will be asking why the 'intelligence' agencies yet again failed to detect them and the answer will be that they were wasting their time chasing up thousands of useless 'leads' spewed out by their surveillance systems.

Won't work if you put aside important inputs (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38175804)

Sounds nice - but won't work, of course.

Remember 9/11? Remember the fact that the German intelligence agency sent the full name, phone number, and last known whereabouts of one of the plane hijackers to the USA agencies, including his contacts, and the fact that his recent behaviour was highly suspicious?

The warning was put aside... Rumours tell that the reason was a distrust of any information that didn't come directly from USA personnel.

While the spooks are watching this ... (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175818)

... the real Fikri (who?) is getting on with his/her/its nefarious activities on the other side of the country, while the decoy is just wondering when they'll twig. Aren't Mission Impossible style latex masks wonderful when the whole security system is designed around farcial recognition.

HBGary (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38175834)

Didn't Palantir feature prominently during the HBGary e-mail hack fall-out?

Hmm, sounds familiar... (5, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175840)

Wasn't Palantir Technologies [wikipedia.org] one of the slimy corprospook outfits(along with the notorious H.B. Gary Federal and Berico technologies) commissioned to do a little proposal for some dirty-tricks work against Wikileaks after Bank of America decided to lawyer up(with a little advice from the DOJ... How's that for a public defender?)

Oh yes, yes they were...

Fuck these guys and the horse they rode in on. Compared to a few pitiful fanatics who want to bomb everybody back to the 12th century, where they can feel at home, fine outfits like this are a much more serious threat to the aspects of our society worth saving.

Re:Hmm, sounds familiar... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38175992)

+5 to that pls

Re:Hmm, sounds familiar... (2)

Atmchicago (555403) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176050)

Not only that, but the captivating example of Mr. Fikri is made up. I bet their system will never work as intended, but rather drain billions of dollars from taxpayers (which is arguably what was really intended). In the end, the system will be used to catch petty criminals and to further erode our rights, while the risks of terrorism remain less than of car accidents.

Mod Parent Up (2, Informative)

bughunter (10093) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176078)

This needs to be repeated anytime this product or its creator is mentioned in the press. These are not good guys, and this work will not be put to virtuous use.

Ron Paul 2012 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38175844)

-1 offtopic, troll, flamebait be damned, just watch damnit. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dHt_AI9nCg&feature=related [youtube.com]

Re:Ron Paul 2012 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38176036)

How can the patriot act be unpatriotic?

Who wants to work there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38175850)

Read TFA all the way through, and they devote a lot of time to explaining that it's about "non-monetary motivation". Their salaries are capped at $127k/yr and they founder is ambivalent about IPO because it will dilute this "non monetary motivation".

Well, that works out very well for the founder doesn't it? I bet he won't be getting just $127k/yr out of all this. I bet there is one helluva golden parachute, or off-market share trading for those guys.

Oh, and having sleepovers and building forts in the office? Fuck. You.

Re:Who wants to work there? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175982)

Sometimes its the hidden perks ( bonuses ) and contacts you make that are the real payoff in businesses like this. They are used as stepping stones.

It's real hard to make inroads into some of those 3 lettered agencies, but with this you get your face seen and you name 'out there' for when its time to crossover.

Their salaries are capped at $127k/yr (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176060)

Oh those poor bastards! my heart bleeds, absolutely bleeds for them.

please, hold that thought while i cut the flesh off my arm so i can salt it an mail it to them, lest they go hungry.

127k/year--- not that much when you think about it!

especially considering they get most of their funding from the government. i am glad my tax dollars can go to support these poor people, earning only 127k/year.

TIA (2)

Sean (422) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175874)

Remember that "Total Information Awareness" program that was supposedly cut?

451 (3, Insightful)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175906)

When I first read Fahrenheit 451 decades ago what struck me most was when the authorities zeroed in on some hapless fall-guy who took the hit for Guy Montague. All that mattered to the public watching the video was that *someone* took the fall.

It did not matter if a crime took place. It did not matter if the real perp got caught. The public need for resolution was achieved at the expense of some/anyone. In my current work with databases I see errors that get accepted as fact even if I explain why the error occurs. Similar to my dear departed grandmother telling me "I saw it on TV so it must be true". Good grief, why is everyone so willing to hand-off their self-actualization/responsibility to some government flunkies?

Right about the same time my parents gave me 1984 to read and I've been watching us ride that slippery slope. So sad and so unnecessary except it DOES keep the powers-that-be in power!

Do people ever study the SS and the NKVD? (2)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176082)

"IBM and the Holocaust" by Edwin Black will teach you more about the mechanics of a totalitarian state than all of the dystopian novels we had to read in high school.

So is it tied into the "five eyes" of Echelon? (3, Insightful)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 2 years ago | (#38175964)

Is Echelon, which was operated by the "five eyes" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AUSCANNZUKUS) still in operation? Is Palantir tied into it? Presumably that would give it a lot more data to work with.

Anyway, I'd be much more concerned with making sure the data matched with the right person. For example, remember how many spellings there were for Colonel Qaddafi, and he presumably wasn't trying to mask his identity! (At the U.N.: "I'm sorry Mr. Qaddafi but we don't have you down as speaking to the general assembly now, we have someone by the name of Khaddafi".)

I wonder if the recently announced initiative to collect the biometrics data for EVERY living Afghani (which will then be given to the U.S.) was "encouraged" by the U.S. for this reason. I doubt that the Indian effort to do the same for 1.2 BILLION(!) Indians had anything to do with the U.S. (but you never know, both countries ARE U.S. allies). I guess we'll know if other U.S. "allies" in the middle east (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq?) follow suit. THEN these systems could begin to really track down terrorists (who by and large come from that part of the world).

Re:So is it tied into the "five eyes" of Echelon? (1)

sirdude (578412) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176040)

While Indian-US relationships have certainly thawed substantially in the last few years, calling them allies is a bit of a stretch (as is your theory :P) Pakistan is considered the American ally (although that has taken a hit today) in the region and are also the source of a lot of international (and national) terrorists.

no, it's not (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176072)

echelon is old. it has evolved into other things.

they have replaced it with newer stuff. see for example NSA's Thinthread, Trailblazer, and Turbulence projects.

i dont know much about the biometrics in Afghanistan, the first step would be figuring out which agency is responsible for gathering the data, then figuring out which agency is responsible for storing the data.

Mission Impossible? (1)

sirdude (578412) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176002)

What clearly designed graphical interface is TFA talking about in Mission Impossible? Shouldn't the reference be to Minority Report [google.com] instead? :S

All that data... (1)

Commontwist (2452418) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176022)

Now all they have to do is turn all that data into pictures, feed it into a tech nerd working at a tech store, and then recruit them as a super-spy.

Data mining is not the problem (2, Insightful)

fa2k (881632) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176052)

Since the CIA have all this info, they should be allowed to data mine it as much as they please. They get most of this info from people using credit cards (at least in the example). It's entirely optional to use credit cards, and people should be more careful about using them if they think it's creepy that the government can put together the info they are handing over. Alternatively, I think there would be large demand for a financial service that was easier to use than cash, but didn't hand over all the transactions to the CIA. Either way the problem, and the solution, are not related to Palantir.

Were is the line (3, Insightful)

deodiaus2 (980169) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176134)

Unfortunately, there is very little enforcement about the line between terrorists and dissidents. Suppose that the African Civil Rights program were in motion right now, instead of during the 1960's. How many of the activities that happened then would be considered fighting for freedom vs fighting against the US. Or suppose that the South were trying to succeed from the Union. Would that be considered treason, or fighting for one's own liberty?
Fundamentally, a government which has enormous power over the constituents is considered right no matter what the fundamental issues are at hand. People are very persuaded and easily motivated to tow the party line, especially if they have somewhat of a stake in the outcome.
Consider the bail out of the US banks in 2008. Something like 70% of the people did not support the bailout, yet it went through. Suppose that citizens had taken up arms to influence this decision. How many of those people would have been successful in stopping their future tax revenues from ending up in the hands of rich and elite gamblers who decided to speculate in MBSs? With this level of surveillance, it would be easy to round up and send off to detention camps those who publicly opposed OUR government. The rest would fall into line. We laugh at the Soviets, but we have the best form of government that money can buy.

Typing ?!?! (1)

robi5 (1261542) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176136)

WTF would there be a need for typing anything into anything? It could be automated!

Sauron didn't create the palantiri (2)

Malibee (1215790) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176162)

Those of you who are making the connection with Sauron would do well to remember that the Seeing Stones had many good and important uses before one fell into Sauron's hands. The Stones themselves were not evil. For the real-life analog, see http://www.palantirtech.com/government/analysis-blog/haiti [palantirtech.com]

Anyway, not a fan of increased government surveillance, but calling "Big Brother" because the government is working to share data more effectively strikes me as equivalent to assuming that every person using Bittorrent is a pirate, or every person who refuses the full-body scan at the airport is a terrorist.

Ridiculus (1)

dbcad7 (771464) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176194)

Even before 911, the US had a pretty strict visa policy.. Yes there were/are abuses, mostly people coming and never going back. It's part of what makes 911 so suspicious. People were, and are, declined visas every day even without explanation. People with legitimate passports and visa's were and are turned back at the port of entry.. There is no "right to visit the US".. The whole point of a visa system is to weed out bad intent.. The whole point of a passport system, is to control entry.. It's why we have US embassies, and why we have immigration and customs,, In the "scenario" provided, why would such a person be given a visa in the first place ?.. Wouldn't it be easier to collect a list of known bad people and their friends, and just deny them at the get go ?.. In "visa required countries", even people unknown to intelligence agencies, have to provide proof as to who they are and reasonable explanations about their visit, and convince the embassy of their intentions to return.. The sorting it out after someone has arrived method, does not make sense.. It's like installing anti-virus after you have already been infected.

Meh (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176198)

Just catching up with FaceBook.

Benjamin Franklin (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 2 years ago | (#38176214)

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. People want to remain safe, but in a free society, you have to accept that unless you go to a police state, you can never truly be safe, and, even in a police state, you are always in fear of that state.
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