A leaked document has revealed that tools produced by analytics company Palantir Technologies are helping U.S. law enforcement officials crack difficult cases and giving soldiers a key edge on the battlefield, a report said.
TechCrunch posted a story with details from testimonials given by some of the secretive Palo Alto company’s customers, apparently being circulated as part of a new Palantir fundraising effort, the Silicon Valley Business Journal said.
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The company was founded in 2004 when a group of PayPal leaders and Stanford computer scientists — including investors Peter Thiel, Joe Lonsdale and Palantir CEO Alexander Karp — were concerned about the growing threat of hacking attacks, the Journal said.
Palantir has raised about $1 billion from investors who include Thiel’s Founders Fund and government intelligence investor In-Q-Tel. A filing in November suggests that it plans to raise as much as half a billion more, according to the website.
TechCrunch noted that the document is dated in 2013 and may not show all the current uses of the company’s technology. But back then, Palantir targeted three sectors: Government, the finance sector and legal research. The company’s products help clients in those sectors make sense of huge amounts of data by asking questions in natural language and getting answers in real time, the Journal said.
Previously, a government agency would have had to hire specialist engineers to analyze the data Palantir is designed for. Thanks to the tools offered by Palantir, anyone can dig in to petabytes of data using natural language queries, Business Insider said.
Among other things, the document reportedly shows that Palantir’s technology was used to help convict Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff by sorting through more than 40 years of records. It also said that everyone from detectives to transit police at the Los Angeles Police Department use Palantir, which parses and connects as many as 160 data sets to help them in their work, the Journal said.
The 2013 document shows that Palantir was used by at least 12 U.S. government agencies, including the CIA, Department of Homeland Security, National Security Agency, FBI, the Centers for Disease Control, the Marine Corps, the Air Force, Special Operations Command, West Point, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Organization and allies, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the website said.
The document claims that the Pentagon used Palantir’s software to investigate patterns in roadside bombings and discovered that they were being detonated using garage door openers. It said the Marines use it to analyze DNA samples in real time that had been uploaded from remote locations, the Journal said.
One LAPD officer was quoted as saying the software has “brought great success” and “supports the cops on the streets and the officers doing investigations.” A Marine who now works for a military contractor said Palantir was “the combination of every analytical tool you could ever dream of. You will know every single bad guy in your area.” And 96% of Palantir users with the US Army in Afghanistan also reportedly said they preferred it to the Army’s in-house data-analysis tools, Business Insider said.