Meet The Man Behind Palantir, The CIA's Shifty Data-Mining Contractor

Anarchy Of Things

Paul Lachine

Over at Forbes, Andy Greenberg has penned a fascinating profile of Alex Karp, the CEO of the CIA-funded data mining company Palantir. Palantir applies Silicon Valley data-gathering expertise to the tremendous amount of secret data that intelligence agencies and the military generate. Palantir then takes all the data and makes it useful, tagging the information and analyzing patterns to, for example, predict attacks in Iraq or track down cartel members. The company is moving into the private sector, away from just defense contracting, and bringing lessons from the battlefield to banks looking to stop identity theft and cyberattacks.

The profile covers a lot about the company and its core philosophy. Greenberg focuses on Karp because his personal ethical convictions could stop Palantir from abusing the power of information in its grasp. My favorite moment was a scene describing Karp’s office. What kind of room does a man who mines through secrets keep?

His office, decorated with cardboard effigies of himself built by Palantir staff and a Lego fortress on a coffee table, overlooks Palo Alto’s Alma Street through two-way mirrors. Each pane is fitted with a wired device resembling a white hockey puck. The gadgets, known as acoustic transducers, imperceptibly vibrate the glass with white noise to prevent eavesdropping techniques, such as bouncing lasers off windows to listen to conversations inside.

The full profile, over at Forbes, is well worth a read.


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