Three Days of the Vulture
What’s to stop a government intelligence agency from turning off Palantir’s privacy-protection features and using the software for illicit purposes? Karp insists that the controls are “very hard to circumvent” and that it would take a “world-class software team” to do it.
He doesn’t cite an example, but it’s hard to resist the thought that one agency Palantir employees claim hold it in high regard—the National Security Agency—would have both the skill and the motivation to modify Palantir for its own purposes. The agency employs the largest and most skilled cadre of software experts in the government. And for more than four years after the 9/11 attacks, it conducted a secret campaign of electronic surveillance against US citizens that bypassed federal courts. NSA also took over many of John Poindexter’s Total Information Awareness programs after they were officially shut down, but it rejected one: building privacy-enhancing technology into computer software. In congressional testimony, NSA’s director, General Keith Alexander, said the agency has examined Palantir’s software and that it could be useful for cybersecurity.
Over time, the cultural distinctions between employees in Palo Alto and Tysons Corner have become more pronounced, in turn affecting the company. Palantir is neither of the Valley nor entirely of the Beltway. It’s a kind of techno-military hybrid
Killer App article Washingtonian