Palantir Technologies is an American software company focused on big data analytics founded in 2003. The company has been developing at a fast pace, exceeding 1.5 billion U.S. dollars in revenue in 2021. Its name is derived from J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous Middle Earth universe, specifically The Lord of the Rings. What is a Palantir, then? Simply put, they are a collection of crystal stones used to see events across the world. Just like the Middle Earth Palantir, the U.S. American Palantir aims to provide its users a wide range of information and knowledge.
Palantir’s main products: Foundry, Gotham, and Apollo
The Foundry software program operates at a company level, enabling companies to efficiently maximize their most valuable asset - their data – within a secure environment customized for their needs. For instance, Palantir improved elderly care in Japan, by creating a healthcare infrastructure that provides a secure collaboration between research, government, and private sectors.
Palantir Gotham is an AI-ready operating system used for military missions that has been powering the U.S. Army Vantage platform since 2019. This technology operates on AI models that use satellite data to detect an increased level of military activity in a defined area. When satellite coverage is not enough to identify potential conflict zones, Gotham recommends alternative solutions based on human and machine-generated actions, tested and developed in previous exercises and simulations.
Finally, Palantir Apollo was developed to satisfy and facilitate the needs of the company’s increasing number of customers to access several public and private cloud platforms as part of their infrastructure. It is a continuous delivery system that lies at the core functioning of both Foundry and Gotham.
Palantir vs. The United States Army
Palantir's collaboration with the U.S. Army goes back to 2009 when it first deployed with the Special Forces in Iraq, where it was used in subsequent years to better counter roadside bombings and to support the fight against ISIS. However, the company still faced difficulties selling its software to the military. Thus, in 2016, Palantir filed and won a lawsuit against the Army before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, challenging the Army’s decision of pursuing a software development contract to replace its battlefield intelligence system instead of a commercial contract. The Court ruled that the U.S. Army must consider existing and commercialized software programs before developing their own ones. Following the appeal win in 2018, Palantir substantially increased its U.S. Army revenue to almost 78 million U.S. dollars in the first half of 2020 alone.
A Palantir is a dangerous tool, Saruman
In 2020, Palantir’s software allowed unauthorized FBI agents to access a person’s confidential data for over a year, while conducting an unrelated investigation. Despite Palantir blaming the FBI for misusing their platform, American judges concluded that storing such sensitive data requires advanced security measures. Subsequently, in June 2021, a campaign was launched in the UK to stop Palantir’s collaboration with the National Health Service (NHS) due to data privacy issues. The complaints were about Palantir’s questionable agenda, underlining that its main area of expertise was harming people, not healing them. This led to the termination of one of their contracts, namely the Adult Social Care Dashboard. However, the NHS COVID-19 database concerning vaccine distribution in the UK remains based on Palantir’s Foundry platform.
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Justina Alexandra Sava
Research expert covering the IT security & services market