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article imageOp-Ed: With Palantir software used by ICE, no one is safe from scrutiny

By Karen Graham     Aug 21, 2019 in Technology
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement renewed its contract with the software company Palantir, according to new government documents made public on Monday, and it could be worth some $49 million over the next three years.
Palantir was co-founded by Peter Thiel, a top adviser to President Trump and apparently, another of the president's hand-picked "yes men." Amazingly, the contract with Palantir was renewed despite the ongoing protests of the tech firm's role in the U.S. immigration system.
According to Mother Jones, when the contract was posted online, it was redacted to hide information about the size of the contract. However, through what appears to be a mistake in the redaction process, when copy-and-pasting text from the government document into a word processor, the financial figures are revealed.
A similar screw-up occurred in January when Paul Manafort’s defense team had failed to properly redact sensitive paragraphs in a filing in his case.
Europe's top rights court ruled that Britain's programme of mass surveillance  revealed by...
Europe's top rights court ruled that Britain's programme of mass surveillance, revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden as part of his sensational leaks on US spying, violated people's right to privacy
The contract is for Palantir’s Investigative Case Management or ICM software. Palantir has tried to distance itself from the protests surrounding the federal government's Department of Homeland Security databases being hosted by Amazon Web Services (AWS).
An Amazon spokesperson responded to the protests last month, saying the company maintains that it is up to the U.S. government to determine the technology that should be used for deportation purposes, not the vendors themselves.
Big Brother is watching you
China is not the only country that watches its citizens very carefully. In Trump's America, he has kept the public so confused with all his rants, double-talk, and lies that most of us don't know what the hell is going on. But here's a shortlist of what we do know:
China had about 176 million video surveillance cameras in 2016  a figure that is expected to reac...
China had about 176 million video surveillance cameras in 2016, a figure that is expected to reach 2.76 billion by 2022
Palantir's ICM software was used to identify the families of unaccompanied children crossing the border in 2017, according to The Hill, and even though Palantir had previously said its contracts with ICE did not aid the agency's deportation programs, its software was used to aid an ICE program described as a precursor to the Trump administration's so-called zero-tolerance policy last summer, reports Slate.
Palantir is adept at collecting data from multiple sources and condensing it into user-friendly apps that any idiot could figure out. For example, according to Quartz, agents can easily cross-reference data points like license-plate cameras to court documents, helping power the largest data-driven immigration dragnet ever.
ICE agents use another Palantir program called Falcon, a consolidated information management system costing the American taxpayers $39 million.
The surveillance sifts through digital communications such as emails using certain search terms  whi...
The surveillance sifts through digital communications such as emails using certain search terms, which are then reviewed based on relevance
This system enables ICE law enforcement and homeland security personnel to search, analyze and visualize volumes of existing information in support of ICE’s mission to enforce and investigate violations of U.S. criminal and administrative laws.
And while it is well known that Palantir is using all kinds of surveillance data, including facial recognition software and artificial intelligence to identify people, Palantir also had a contract with the Census Bureau from 2016-2018 when the department was set on developing its plan to deploy the very first digital census.
Activists protest the surveillance of US citizens by the NSA outside the Justice Department on Janua...
Activists protest the surveillance of US citizens by the NSA outside the Justice Department on January 17, 2014 in Washington, DC
Win Mcnamee, Getty/AFP/File
The uses of surveillance programs questioned
The Electronic Privacy Information Center ( is concerned about the federal government’s use of information systems that include vast amounts of information on individuals. ICE uses products developed and maintained by Palantir to import, aggregate, search, analyze and visualize data from a variety of sources to carry out homeland security investigations.
Yet, the public knows little about the effectiveness of the systems, the extent of training required for use of the systems, constraints on the dissemination of data, and the mechanisms in place for oversight and accountability.
The public has a right to know the amount of information collected in these systems, the capabilities the agency has to analyze these systems, and the extent of access to this information allowed to other federal agencies, as well as local and state agencies.
Basically, this means that "The Donald is watching you."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Palantir, Amazon, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Investigative Case Management System, Rekognition
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