The US company Palantir, which specializes in big data analyzes, has joined the European cloud project Gaia-X as a member “from day one”. The group “proudly” announced this in a blog post on Friday. The announcement is surprising for several reasons. So far it was not known that the company, which cooperates closely with secret services such as the CIA and the NSA as well as the US military, represents the values upheld at Gaia-X such as data protection, digital sovereignty, trust, transparency and openness.
Palantir not announced as an official founding member
In addition, Palantir is not one of the first 22 founding members of the non-profit Gaia-X company based in Brussels, which was officially announced in September. These include names such as Atos, BMW, Bosch, De-Cix, Deutsche Telekom, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Orange, OVH, SAP and Siemens. At that time there was still no talk of companies from third countries, even if US hyperscalers and Chinese equipment suppliers have increasingly come to the fore in the prestigious European project since autumn.
Before a Gaia-X conference in November, it became known that in addition to Amazon, Microsoft and Google, Palantir was also on the list of future members, which had grown to 150 names at the time. The board of directors of the Gaia-X-Gesellschaft, which is made up of only European members, had to decide on the applications, it had been said at the time. Meanwhile one is Question and answer list on the institution’s website it can be seen that “over 300 organizations from many countries” are already “involved”. Only associations such as BDI, Bitkom, eco or VDMA are specifically mentioned.
Big data for big brother
The company Palantir, co-founded by Trump supporter Peter Thiel, is named after the seeing stones from the “Lord of the Rings”. It is one of the most controversial corporations in Silicon Valley and has now moved its headquarters to Denver. The US civil rights organization ACLU considers Palantir, which started some 17 years ago with money from the CIA venture capital arm In-Q-Tel, as a “key company in the surveillance industry”. she is According to critics, deeply involved in the US military-digital industrial complex. Their business model is called: Big Data for Big Brother.
In Germany, Hessen is building on Gotham, the version of the Palantir anti-terror software adapted to German conditions, in the fight against terrorism. Critics from the opposition complain that the corresponding “Hessendata” project is accompanied by an unjustified computer search. It is unclear what data will flow into the USA. The police in North Rhine-Westphalia and Europol now also use Gotham.
Protection of data and civil rights
Most recently, Palantir approached authorities in Europe and Germany during the Corona crisis – with a free offer from the data mining software Foundry. The Hessian government initially flirted with the use of the program in order to get a better picture of the effects of Covid 19 diseases in the health care system, but ultimately decided against it. Even at the Federal Ministry of Health, the group was able to with one relevant concept paper don’t land.
From the start, “we have focused our business and technology on addressing many of the challenges that Gaia-X addresses head-on,” now explain the leading European Palantir employees Harkirat Singh and Robert Fink. At its core, it is about the question of how institutions in the public and private sector can make meaningful use of the data that has been distributed, heterogeneous information that they have accumulated over decades or centuries. The security and protection of data and civil rights should not be jeopardized.
“Palantir – the opposite of Europe’s interests”
The values that are at the center of the Gaia-X are “in fact of central importance for our own mission as a company,” write the Palantir experts. The cloud initiative’s vision feels “like a natural extension of that belief”. “Some may once again see a contradiction between cooperation on the one hand and security on the other,” they admit, between the sovereignty and availability of data. The “task for us computer scientists and software engineers” is to “refute this contradiction”.
The confession, however, is a nuisance to observers. “Palantir is the exact opposite of Europe’s interests”, tweeted the boss of the Belgian online advertising company Actito, Benoît De Nayer. “It is one of the most despicable corporations in the world helping authoritarian governments achieve their goal of total control.” The left-wing politician in the Bundestag, Anne Roth, wrote to Peter Altmaier (CDU), who was the initiator of Gaia-X: “And that’s it with the confidence in European sovereignty.” Another Twitter user gets upset: “Unbelievable. Why don’t we send all of our data to the CIA?”