Seeing stones: pandemic reveals Palantir's troubling reach in Europe
In Athens it was memorable as the day the traffic went silent. Twenty-four hours into a hard lockdown, Greeks were acclimatising to a new reality in which they had to send an SMS to the government in order to leave the house. As well as millions of text messages, the Greek government faced extraordinary dilemmas. The European Union's most vulnerable economy, its oldest population along with Italy, and one of its weakest health systems faced the first wave of a pandemic that overwhelmed richer countries with fewer pensioners and stronger health provision. The carnage in Italy loomed large across the Adriatic.
Greece was not the only country tempted by a Covid-related free trial. Palantir was already embedded in the NHS, where a no-bid contract valued at £1 was only revealed after data privacy campaigners threatened to take the UK government to court. When that trial period was over the cost of continuing with Palantir came in at £24m.
The company has also been contracted as part of The Netherlands' Covid response and pitched at least four other European countries, as well as a clutch of EU agencies. The Palantir one-pager that Germany's health ministry released after a freedom of information request described Europe as the company's "focus of activities".
Founded in California in 2003, Palantir may not have been cold-calling around European governments. It has, at times, had a uniquely powerful business development ally in the form of the US government.
On 23 March, the EU's Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) received an email from their counterparts at the US CDC, extolling their work with Palantir and saying the company had asked for an introduction.
Palantir said it was normal practice for some of its "government customers to serve as reference for other prospective customers". It said the ECDC turned down its invitation"out of concern of a risk of the contact being perceived as prejudicing ECDC's independence".
The Greek government has declined to say how it was introduced to Palantir. But there were senior-level links between Palantir, the Trump administration and the Greek government. The US ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey Pyatt, has spoken publicly of the contacts between Pierrakakis and Michael Kratsios, a Greek-American and chief technology adviser to then-president, Donald Trump. Kratsios joined the White House from a role as chief of staff to Peter Thiel, the billionaire Silicon Valley tech investor and founder of Palantir.
When news of Greece's relationship with Palantir was disclosed, it was not by government officials or local media but by ambassador Pyatt. A teleconference followed in December between Greece's prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and Palantir CEO Alex Karp, where the latter spoke of "deepening cooperation" between them.
Ambassador Pyatt of Vicky Neuland, and Maidan Massacre fame before and during the Ukraine regime change of February 2014. All same actors present ...
A lot of companies don't care about burning cash, but Palantir really doesn't care. One of Palantir's first investors was the CIA, through their venture capital arm, and a huge portion of their revenue comes from governments - primarily the US. When you are implicitly backed by the government, have the government as your client and are developing critical infrastructure for data management in 2020 it seems like a fairly safe bet that you aren't going to be allowed to go broke.
Palantir will probably be compared to Uber, WeWork, Google, Facebook and other big name venture-backed tech firms but it really shouldn't be. It's much more like a Lockheed Martin or Raytheon Technologies - which are the 2 biggest defense contractors in the United States. Big data software might not be one of the first things you think of when you think "defense" - but in 2020 it probably should be.
From the diaries - July 2019 ...
The Dominic Cummings Charade of Boris et al
To anyone concerned about surveillance, Palantir is practically now a trigger word. The data-mining firm has contracts with governments all over the world - including GCHQ and the NSA. It's owned by Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal and major investor in Facebook, who became Silicon Valley's first vocal supporter of Trump.
There are three strands to this story. How the foundations of an authoritarian surveillance state are being laid in the US. How British democracy was subverted through a covert, far-reaching plan of coordination enabled by a US billionaire. And how we are in the midst of a massive land grab for power by billionaires via our data. Data which is being silently amassed, harvested and stored. Whoever owns this data owns the future.
[Source: Stefan Simanowitz]
Peter Thiel's Palantir Spreads Its Tentacles Throughout Europe - May 2020
Palantir Technologies Inc., the data mining company named after the all-seeing stone from the Lord of the Rings, likes to apply J.R.R. Tolkien references to many aspects of its business. The name of its London office is Grey Havens, a major strategic port in the fantasy trilogy's Middle Earth setting. It's an apt moniker since the U.K. capital has become a vital hub driving growth of the $20 billion startup. Palantir has roughly tripled annual revenue from Europe over the past three years, said Alex Karp, the chief executive officer who started the company with billionaire Peter Thiel.
Big data company Palantir wants to participate in the European cloud project Gaia-X | DE24 - Dec. 2020 |
Greece's Covid-19 Response: Not Beyond Reproach | Maastricht University - March 16, 2021 |
Greece emerged as the EU's poster child in the fight against Covid-19 during the first few months of the pandemic. Its approach, while effective, is not beyond reproach. We analyse two such contested areas of Covid-19 regulation: permits of movement obtained through SMS, and restrictions to the freedom of movement of asylum seekers. Our analysis draws from our forthcoming article in the European Journal of Risk Regulation (2021).
The Curious Case of Permits of Movement Obtained Through SMS
A primary way to contain the spread of Covid-19 has been the imposition of physical distancing through temporary lockdown and stay-at-home requirements. The Greek government issued a ban on all unnecessary traffic from March 23, which lasted until 4 May. Similar restrictions of movement of various degree and intensity were further imposed on November 1 and are currently ongoing. Anyone on the move falling within one of the expressly listed exceptions, such as grocery shopping, appointment with a doctor or a public authority etc. is required to carry an identification document as well as a permit of movement. This form can be obtained by filling out an online form, or -the most popular option- sending a mobile message to a dedicated number the General Secretariat of Civil Protection (Γενική Γραμματεία Πολιτικής Προστασίας) operates. In obtaining permission via SMS, the individual is required to provide their name and surname, code number corresponding to the purpose of movement and residence address. In the event of a random police check individuals are required to demonstrate their permit, otherwise a fine may be imposed.
Interestingly, the rules on the processing of personal data obtained through SMS have been released online merely through a 'soft law' document on the 'data protection policy', without prior scrutiny, consultation or transparency. In turn, despite the increasing volume of Covid-19-related legal instruments, the requirement for permits of movement is not laid down in law. The policy is written in Greek only, which does not enable foreigners living in the country to obtain information as to how their personal data are being processed. The policy explicitly proscribes centralised storage and thus data must be deleted immediately, but there is possibility that data are anonymised and used for statistical purposes.
From earlier post @EuroTrib - Sept. 2013 ...
Another Blatant Lie by Kerry Unmasked
A must read, quite excellent investigative journalism by Max Blumenthal @Mondoweiss. Article established for a fact what my suspicion has been from the outset.
Shady PR operatives, pro-Israel ties, anti-Castro money: Inside the Syrian opposition's DC spin machine | Mondoweiss |
During the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria on September 3, Secretary of State John Kerry and Senator John McCain both cited a Wall Street Journal editorial by Elizabeth O'Bagy to support their assessment of the Syrian rebels as predominately "moderate," and potentially Western-friendly.
"She works with the Institute of War," Kerry said of O'Bagy. "She's fluent in Arabic and spent an enormous amount of time studying the opposition and studying Syria. She just published this the other day. Very interesting [Wall Street Journal] article, which I commend to you."
Kerry added, "I just don't agree that a majority are al-Qaida and the bad guys."
What Kerry and McCain neglected to mention was that O'Bagy had been recently hired as the political director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), a little known outfit that functions as a lobbying arm of the Syrian opposition in Washington.
"Logrolling for war"
In its 2011 annual report [PDF], the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) detailed its close working relationship with Palantir Technologies, a private surveillance firm contracted by Bank of America in 2011 in an unsuccessful plot to dismantle Anonymous and sabotage Glenn Greenwald.
SETF Organizes McCain Trip into Syria