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Palantir, the War On Terror's Secret Weapon 276

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-blame-the-elves dept.
hessian tips a story in BusinessWeek about Palantir, a system designed to aggregate disparate data points gathered by intelligence agencies and weave them into a more useful narrative. The article summarizes it thus: "Depending where you fall on the spectrum between civil liberties absolutism and homeland security lockdown, Palantir’s technology is either creepy or heroic." "The day Fikri drives to Orlando, he gets a speeding ticket, which triggers an alert in the CIA's Palantir system. An analyst types Fikri's name into a search box and up pops a wealth of information pulled from every database at the government's disposal. There's fingerprint and DNA evidence for Fikri gathered by a CIA operative in Cairo; video of him going to an ATM in Miami; shots of his rental truck's license plate at a tollbooth; phone records; and a map pinpointing his movements across the globe. All this information is then displayed on a clearly designed graphical interface that looks like something Tom Cruise would use in a Mission: Impossible movie."
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Palantir, the War On Terror's Secret Weapon

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  • Hello (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Titan1080 (1328519) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:02PM (#38175714)
    Big Brother.
    • Re:Hello (Score:5, Funny)

      by russotto (537200) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:04PM (#38175730) Journal
      He prefers to be called "Lord Sauron" now.
    • Creepy, definitely creepy.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851)

        That was my thought, regardless of where you are on the spectrum it's creepy. Where you are on the spectrum dictates whether or not you realize it to be so.

        There's absolutely no way that aggregating huge amounts of information about people without warrants and then trolling through it is anything other than creepy.

        • Re:Hello (Score:5, Interesting)

          by pugugly (152978) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @06:04PM (#38176582)

          I don't find it so much creepy as, well, useless.

          We keep trying to add more raw data to the system - what's needed is to remove irrelevant data from the system.

          This is just going to be a boondoggle full of data that can eventually prove Captain America Killed Kennedy in the Library with the Lead Pipe.

          We only have so many smart people that can investigate so many leads - sending them off to investigate a speeding ticket because his girlfriend dated bin Laden's father's brother's former roommate is no use whatsoever.

          Idiots.

          Pug

          • Re:Hello (Score:4, Informative)

            by Hognoxious (631665) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @06:28PM (#38176750) Homepage Journal

            You've basically pointed out the other axis, which is more or less orthogonal to the one mentioned in the title.

            It runs from "computer says you're a tayrst, so get yer to gitmo" to "this is completely useless" via "this may occasionally flag things that warrant further investigation, but that would require some mental and possibly physical effort from some fat asstard who might be wearing a badge and carrying a gun but mentally he's still an 11 year old schoolyard bully".

      • Re:Hello (Score:5, Insightful)

        by EdIII (1114411) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @05:19PM (#38176324)

        What's creepy and deeply ironic is the name.

        The Palantir were created by good to accomplish communication and ostensibly protection similar to satellite photography. However, they were appropriated by evil and used to lie, distort the truth, and fill the world with oppression.

        Privacy advocates (such as myself) are rightly worried about such technology for exactly the reason their name implies.

        That's creepy.

        • by Tjp($)pjT (266360)
          Recall that even Sauron did not have the power to make the palantiri show false images, but rather could force selective showing of truthful images to lead to deceit. The best lies are based in truth.
      • Re:Hello (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday November 26, 2011 @06:11PM (#38176636) Homepage Journal

        Creepy, definitely creepy.

        a system designed to aggregate disparate data points gathered by intelligence agencies and weave them into a more useful narrative

        A "more useful narrative".

        The use of that term of art sends shivers up my spine. I'm not comfortable with our intelligence agencies "weaving" "narratives".

        Looking back at the second half of the past century, I see a hell of a lot of human suffering that came from intelligence agencies "weaving narratives".

      • Re:Hello (Score:4, Interesting)

        by rtb61 (674572) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @02:29AM (#38180012) Homepage

        Creepy is not the word for it 'Bullshit' is the word for it. The problem with the fantasy is the quality of the information in the database and the assumptions made in creating the links. It doesn't take long for the most innocent person to be linked with the most destructive activity, based upon how far those assumptions are stretched to create connection between records in the database.

        Then of course there are gross errors in the database things like false revenge based accusations, for profit accusations, reduced sentence accusations, now add in simple clerical errors, typos, misspellings and then tie faulty recognition, poor human memory and then of course just stupid stuff like people with the same name or foreign intelligence agencies poisoning data on purpose.

        Nett result, another billion dollar boondoggle on a dead end craptastic database. All works well with simulated data but in the real world, a world full of lies, trickery, deceit and of course laziness, it all just collapses. Of course a world full of 'Anonymous' types would just love to have fun poisoning that database with false data and ludicrous connections to accelerate the collapse.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Big Brother.

      1984... is freaking real

      • Re:Hello (Score:5, Funny)

        by SpzToid (869795) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:43PM (#38175948)

        And like every other I.T. project it is behind schedule. Probably way over budget too, but who knows?

        At least Mark Zuckerberg is helping out in the free sector, showing everyone how well it can be done. If nothing else his company sets the bar for us all to see.

      • Re:Hello (Score:5, Interesting)

        by flyingsquid (813711) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @04:22PM (#38176104)

        Big Brother.

        1984... is freaking real

        I wouldn't be so sure about that. If you read the article, it starts out with the story of a suspicious character by the name of Mike Fikri. Fikri has bought a one-way ticket from Egypt to Florida, he's making bank withdrawals from Russia, talking to suspicious people in Syria, scoping out crowded places at Disneyworld. The scenario lays out something a lot like the lead up to 9/11: lots of individual actions that alone mean nothing, but together make a huge red flag and make this guy a Person of Interest. And Palantir can allow the government to spot this guy before he executes his plot. And you start thinking, wow, if this technology really spotted this guy, maybe it's worth thinking seriously about it. And then the article's punchline: "Fikri isn’t real—he’s the John Doe example Palantir uses in product demonstrations that lay out such hypothetical examples."

        Here's the problem with all these liberty-vs-security debates. Before we get into the argument about just how much personal liberty we're willing to give up for security, let's first establish that the proposed measures would actually make us safer. Does any of this security theatre actually work? If torture isn't an effective interrogation technique- and all of the available evidence strongly suggests that it is not- we don't need to have a debate about whether it's moral to torture someone to save lives. If torture doesn't work, then the left, right, and centre should all be able to agree that we shouldn't torture. Similarly, has all of this government eavesdropping actually produced useful leads in the War on Terror? If so, then we can have a debate about the merits of something like Palantir. But if after ten years the government still can't point to a single credible case of where massive, indiscriminate domestic surveillance has spotted a credible threat from a terrorist, well, there's no need to even debate the civil rights aspect of it. It's just a waste of resources regardless of whether it's justifiable or not.

        Basically, the War on Terror proponents want to engage you in a debate that goes like this: "Aren't you willing to give up just a little liberty for a lot of security?" It's a reasonable proposition for anyone but a hardcore libertarian, so that's a debate they can win with many people. So if you engage them in that discussion, you're basically ceding the argument. They're going to win over the majority of the people every time. But the debate we need to be having first is, "Are all of these invasive, expensive measures you're proposing actually going to make us safer at all?"

        Or look at it this way. A guy comes up to you with a handful of beans and says, "These are Magic Antiterrorism Beans. They cost a billion dollars but they'll keep you safe from terrorists forever. Isn't that a small price to pay for security?" Before you start haggling over the price, wouldn't you want to be sure that the beans actually worked?

        • Re:Hello (Score:4, Insightful)

          by causality (777677) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @05:34PM (#38176384)

          I wouldn't be so sure about that. If you read the article, it starts out with the story of a suspicious character by the name of Mike Fikri. Fikri has bought a one-way ticket from Egypt to Florida, he's making bank withdrawals from Russia, talking to suspicious people in Syria, scoping out crowded places at Disneyworld. The scenario lays out something a lot like the lead up to 9/11: lots of individual actions that alone mean nothing, but together make a huge red flag and make this guy a Person of Interest. And Palantir can allow the government to spot this guy before he executes his plot. And you start thinking, wow, if this technology really spotted this guy, maybe it's worth thinking seriously about it.

          All of that is really easier than deciding not to use economic warfare to push other nations around? It's easier than not using our intelligence agencies to overthrow elected governments and replace them with dictators who play ball with us?

          Or did you think they hate us for our great freedoms? In that case they should like us by now and admire the path we're on.

          Basically, the War on Terror proponents want to engage you in a debate that goes like this: "Aren't you willing to give up just a little liberty for a lot of security?" It's a reasonable proposition for anyone but a hardcore libertarian

          So not being a coward makes one a hardcore libertarian? Or being observant enough to recognize the problems with the government's brand of "security" and the way it's always sold in terms of fear requires a particular political philosophy?

          See this is the problem with politics. Everyone wants to be a member of some team and then it's a "go team go!" mentality instead of starting with the facts, a good understanding of history, and proceeding from there. I'm happy to dismantle every program like this and then take my chances of dying in a terrorist attack. I'm more likely to get struck by lightning but I'll chance that too, even without a portable Faraday cage.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rust627 (1072296)

          problem is, we are talking governments here.
          if 10 years of government eavesdropping and data matching does not produce any credible result in an anti terror area, any other department that can will have its fingers in the data somewhere.
          and of course Government departments are not justified by results, Government departments are justified by budgets, so if it is spending all of its budget, then it is working . If at that point it is not achieving results this is only because either it does not have a big en

        • I do not consider myself a "hardcore" libertarian but the phrase "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." keeps ringing through my mind, so I must default to liberty. Sorry. Debate over.
        • "If torture doesn't work, then the left, right, and centre should all be able to agree that we shouldn't torture."

          If the left say we shouldn't torture, the right will demand we heat up the hot poker and eye-gougers just to be different. Do not underestimate the sheer power of hate that is the political divide in US politics.
        • Oh no, Fikri is real...The problem is he's just on a Disneyworld vacation and put his bank accounts in Russia because he felt his own government was becoming unstable. He's talking to people in Syria due to the influence of the Arab Spring. The problem is a lot of perfectly normal activity can be spun as suspicious activity very easily and suddenly you end up in Gitmo for taking a vacation to Disneyworld.

          It's The Umbrella Man [nytimes.com] effect.

          Why are you so unsure about 1984 and so sure these random connectio
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      WARN: THERE IS ANOTHER SYSTEM
    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:23PM (#38175854)

      I think the summary is wrong in one aspect.

      The article summarizes it thus: "Depending where you fall on the spectrum between civil liberties absolutism and homeland security lockdown, Palantirâ(TM)s technology is either creepy or heroic."

      Fuck "homeland security lockdown". Think more about who has access to that information and whether you trust THEM with this kind of information about your daughter.

      Do you believe that there are more terrorists in the USofA than there are perverts who would have access to that system?

      • by artor3 (1344997) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:56PM (#38175994)

        Do you believe that there are more terrorists in the USofA than there are perverts who would have access to that system?

        Yes. Yes, I do. The whole "pervert around every corner just waiting to rape YOUR DAUGHTER!" argument is every bit as exploitative and dishonest as terrorism scare-mongering.

        • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday November 26, 2011 @04:24PM (#38176106)

          Yes. Yes, I do.

          Strange, because the statistics show 88,097 cases of forcible rape reporting in 2009 in the USofA.
          http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/data/table_02.html [fbi.gov]

          Now, how many deaths by terrorists in the USofA in 2009?
          Zero.

          88,097 vs 0.
          And yet you believe that the system will be good enough to keep out the perverts who would abuse it.

          • by artor3 (1344997) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @04:27PM (#38176128)

            How many of those forcible rapes were by intelligence agents who used their work tools as part of the rape, over the past ten years?

            Now how many deaths by terrorists in the same time period?

            • Nice try. (Score:5, Insightful)

              by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Saturday November 26, 2011 @04:53PM (#38176206)

              How many of those forcible rapes were by intelligence agents who used their work tools as part of the rape, over the past ten years?

              So, from 11-26-2001 until 11-26-2011 (10 years) you want me to provide you with statistics for forcible rape?

              Why can't you provide them? After all, that is your new claim, isn't it?

              Now how many deaths by terrorists in the same time period?

              Again, from 11-26-2001 through 11-26-2011 (10 years) ....

              Oh, I see what you were trying to do. You were trying to get the WTC attacks included to make the numbers look more favourable to your new claim.

              Except you didn't realize that they had happened more than 10 years ago.

              Anyway, I've already supported my position with the statistics. If you want to change your position to include the WTC attacks then you're going to have to do your own research on rape statistics for whatever time frame you finally settle upon.

              Remember, statistics first. Then opinions.
              You run into problems when you get that backwards.

            • by sdguero (1112795)
              Lets say the 10,000 people have access to the system, and they rape as often as the average US citizen (88,097 of 300 million). Since 10,000 creepy feds is .003% of the total US population we can calculate .00003 (percentage of citizens with access) X 88097 (rapes for all of USofA) = 2.64 rapes per year

              So around 3 rapes a year to help stop terrorism. I guess that's a judgement call eh?

              And then there are the hundreds of other crimes that can be committed against you and your family by someone with acc
            • by element-o.p. (939033) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @06:23PM (#38176702) Homepage
              Have you been living under a rock? How about these, for starters:

              TSO molesting children when off-duty [elkodaily.com]
              Another TSO molesting children [myfoxorlando.com]
              TSO rapist [youtube.com]
              TSO fired after sexual assault while in uniform and off-duty [thehill.com]


              Okay, you specifically said "rape", and I took a few liberties with the term, as well as limiting my replies to (mostly) TSA agents. Nevertheless, I'm sure you get the picture.
        • by migla (1099771) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @04:34PM (#38176154)

          Do you believe that there are more terrorists in the USofA than there are perverts who would have access to that system?

          Yes. Yes, I do. The whole "pervert around every corner just waiting to rape YOUR DAUGHTER!" argument is every bit as exploitative and dishonest as terrorism scare-mongering.

          I understood the point differently:
          The potential of misuse by idiot government thugs/bureaucrats and thereby trouble for people is greater than the terrorist threat.

          Maybe if this is just a CIA thing, where they all are real smart professionals, it wouldn't be a widespread problem (unless ones views differ from those of the CIA).

          But in general, a huge problem about this new big brother society of ours is that the people at the monitors are security guards and police officers. Have you seen those? I wouldn't let those be in charge of filming everybody all the time. There's too many stupid jerks there who'd circulate stuff they find amusing.

    • Re:Hello (Score:5, Insightful)

      by u38cg (607297) <calum@callingthetune.co.uk> on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:47PM (#38175960) Homepage
      This quote, from the very end, is interesting:

      Thiel...says civil liberties advocates should welcome Palantir. âoeWe cannot afford to have another 9/11 event in the U.S. or anything bigger than that,â he says. âoeThat day opened the doors to all sorts of crazy abuses and draconian policies.â

      There is something in that, I think. You can argue all you like about rights and what makes just law, but the fact is such events tend to drive the national mood squarely towards security over civil liberty.

      • Re:Hello (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @04:22PM (#38176098)

        You can argue all you like about rights and what makes just law, but the fact is such events tend to drive the national mood squarely towards security over civil liberty.

        While true, I don't think appeasement is the right way to handle the problem. For one thing, no matter the sales hype, there is no way that this system can guarantee there won't be any more major attacks (hell, their own promotional example relies on the bad guy being stupid enough to get a speeding ticket, as if a dedicated terrorist won't be doing everything he can be appear to be law abiding).

        So, we install Big Brother, a major attack still eventually gets through and now the baseline for new crazy draconian abuses is just that much higher to start with. But in the mean-time before that all goes down, our entire society suffers the knock-on effects of living in a surveillance state.

    • Re:Hello (Score:4, Interesting)

      by milimetric (840694) on Sunday November 27, 2011 @02:21PM (#38182960) Journal

      How very shallow. I'm coming at this from a radical left perspective, but I happen to think it's good to think things through before pulling your hair out and running around like a crazy person screaming bloody murder.

      This story has no mention of any *new* civil liberties violations. Palantir *aggregates* existing data. If anything, this could help *limit* civil liberty violations. Palantir or a similar system means the government can actually use the data they are already collecting, which implies they can optimize it and get rid of spying tactics that never help deter crime. A logical person should probably agree that if there's a proven way to stop a crime from happening, it's in society's best interest to use it. The point of civil liberties isn't to protect criminals, it's to protect ourselves from the government's mistakes. I think Palantir will allow the government to make less mistakes and be more efficient.

  • The Intersect (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Soon: The contents of Palantir are sent in a coded email to a wage-slave computer tech at a large big box electronics store. Hijinks ensue.

  • by Dexter Herbivore (1322345) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:05PM (#38175738) Journal
  • by Gideon Wells (1412675) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:06PM (#38175742)

    Well, I hope jokes.

    For years we have been joking that 1984 is not a guide. Now it seems either someone being paid to develop this has a sense of humor or has decided to up their game. No longer will 1984 be the guide, they are out to outdo the Dark Lord Sauron himself. Though, Tolkien was trying to recreate the lost myths of Britain, and by that reasoning LotR would be our past... Has anyone noticed any recent appointees or elected officials seemingly always wearing a plain gold ring?

    • by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross AT yahoo DOT ca> on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:15PM (#38175806)

      it will not work worth a damm! because yet again americans think this is a technology problem. what do i offer as proof? read the recent right wing case in germany. these criminals lived ten years off the grid and murdered 8 people in cold blood without so much as a clue. they did it because they borrowed one id after another. but hey why let facts get in the way of an awesome computer program that is as useful as a paperweight.

    • by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:25PM (#38175866)

      Actually, now that I think about it, it is very appropriate. IIRC, the system was created for aggregating information on people who are not American Citizens, and coded to ignore and discard all data it received on American Citizens, but management removed that functionality because there was no oversight over them. Although created to be used by Good as of old a Palantir might have been used by the Lords of Gondor to track the affairs of neighboring lands, the system was taken and used for evil--indeed, one could even say that the prospect of visions within it corrupted the minds of those who watched, as with Denathor.

    • Has anyone noticed any recent appointees or elected officials seemingly always wearing a plain gold ring?

      No. It's a ring of invisibility, after all...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Chris Mattern (191822)

      Most people call it a "wedding band". Coincidental resemblance? You decide.

    • Has anyone noticed any recent appointees or elected officials seemingly always wearing a plain gold ring?

      Well, you wouldn't notice them when they had the ring on, would you?

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      Oh come on. It's a system designed by geeky engineers. They gave it a cute name. That doesn't mean that the government is equivalent to a fallen angel bent on dominating the world.

      All they're doing here is collating the info they already have. You can object to them gathering info, but how is it remotely sane to complain about them efficiently using the info they've collected? Are you really claiming that our liberties should be protected by a mess of paperwork?

  • Very coo that... (Score:5, Informative)

    by dotancohen (1015143) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:09PM (#38175762) Homepage

    ...the submitter linked to the one-page printer version. The full version of TFA spreads out over six page. I went through those six pages looking for a screenshot of the software, but there were none. So if you are going to read it (I must be new here) then stick to the printer version as submitted.

    Thanks, hessian!

  • Deeply creepy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jawnn (445279) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:11PM (#38175770)
    ...and the cries of an outraged populace are stunning in their absence. Sad days, for sure.
    • by artor3 (1344997)

      Why should I be outraged over this? There's plenty of bad stuff going on in this country to be upset over. Having the government develop a system to efficiently collate the data they already have doesn't seem like a bad thing at all.

  • What 'Palantir' is in lord of the rings -> a vehicle for sauron to pry out and seek for the ringbearer and its allies.
    • Yet also a method for Aragorn to challenge Sauron, to draw his attention from the ringbearer at a critical time.

      • by migla (1099771)

        Hi guys! Is this the meeting at the docks? About the revolution? You have my ... [looks around for axe, sword or bow] ... camera and pen.

        We don't have an individual ringbearer, do we? We have a lot of them, distributed, decentralized.

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      And Saturn is a planet, therefore my car must be a planet!!! Now I just need to figure out why my Android doesn't look even remotely human.

  • Searching through already obtained information is a solved problem, getting the data is the hard part. So how exactly are they planning to get a warrant on all of this again?

    • A lot of the data can be purchased from the private companies (non-governmental agencies) collecting it.

      Phone records with location data.
      Rental records.
      And so forth.

      I wonder how long it will be before private citizens can form businesses whose sole purpose will be license plate recording near their homes/offices. And maybe facial recognition. And then selling that information to the government.

  • Awesome! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I can't wait until this War on Terror is over and there is no more terrorism. Remember when the USA had a drug problem and it declared War on Drugs and now you can't buy drugs anymore? It's going to be just like that, right?

    (apologies to Get Your War On [mnftiu.cc])

  • by Shivetya (243324) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:14PM (#38175792) Homepage Journal

    can't wait to see the all seeing eye, can only be around the corner.

    Who would have thought that the US Government was Sauron? The same monster which consumes over four trillion dollars of our work certainly is a monster of epic proportion. No wonder that they now even feel the need to take mythic names for what they do.

    Who needs Skynet when we have all sorts of fantasy names to assign the latest abuse of our rights by our government. The US defeated (or outlasted) communism of the Soviet Union for what, a Soviet Union style government masquerading as a Republic. From control exerted over industry to health care its nearly complete, we even get the same choice in our elections, which is to say none. Vote for whomever the government has approved from these two sides of the same coin.

    Oh, ignore the guy behind the curtain; in your bedroom.

    Occupy Wall Street was too many miles North of where it should been, and targeting the wrong foe. Just as the Tea Party figured out and OWS was only hinting at, the real problem in the US isn't the rich and corporations but the politicians who use their position to empower the rich and corporations all the while securing themselves their position

    • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn@NOSPAM.earthlink.net> on Saturday November 26, 2011 @04:57PM (#38176220)

      It's a feedback system, set up around the time of the civil war. The companies pay the politicians, and the politicians pay the companies. They just use different kinds of coin. (Before then "lobbying" was illegal.)

      Expect that where-ever, whenever, you have centralized control by humans, you will have corruption. Expect it, and design your systems to account for it. One reason that elections are a bad means of selecting representatives is that they encourage corruption. A simple lottery would be better. (Simple. It is to laugh. You still need means to prevent corruption, even if almost everyone selected would start out not-yet corrupted. This means enforced penalties. Not only on those who are the corrupters, but also on those who become corrupt. And it means denying rewards in the future, not just while they hold office.)

      But in a feedback system, you can't say one link is more important than the other. They are all important. If any one breaks, the mode of operation of the system changes.

      What I propose is that if someone is selected to state or regional office, they be given a salary of 3/2 the median income in the country, an ample pension, and forbidden from accepting any gifts or favors from anyone. Expenses of office would need to be covered (which can get a bit tricky...but being a bit lavish here isn't *too* damaging to the country).

      And I also propose that they be selected at random (lottery) from among all adult citizens in an area. It would probably be best to increase the number of Senators, as we don't want a state to be represented by a delegation that's half looney. But 1/3 would be ok.

      If you don't like this, Condorcet voting or Instant Runoff is far better than the current system, as it makes it much more difficult for all contenders to be purchased before the election. But you also need to do something to eliminate the advantage that the well-funded have over the poorly funded, or even so the improvement is likely to be minimal.

      OTOH, don't expect the Supreme Court to allow anything to be done that will impede the ability of the well-funded to rule things. They have recently and historically shown a distressing tendency to side with the wealthy, and let justice and equity go hang.

      If the Constitution was actually honored, I'd be much less likely to propose such an alteration, which is clearly unconstitutional (unless amended). However, since the constitution is ignored except when it's convenient by the powerful and wealthy, I have no qualms in such a proposal. (Besides, I know it won't be adopted, so I'll never be proven foolish.)

    • If the U.S. is creating the Palantir, then the U.S. is Feanor. Prideful, arrogant, greedily in love with his own work. But a strong, charismatic genius none-the-less. His arrogance leads him to commit evil acts, but he does lead the fight against the greater evil, and the world would have been poorer without his actions.

      Sounds like an even better analogy.

  • Hmmm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:14PM (#38175798) Homepage

    1. Integrates multiple, disparate global databases and extracts information from them like magic.
    2. Combines text, numeric data, and multimedia as if they were ingredients in a cake recipe.
    3. Has a UI that looks just like something from a Hollywood movie.
    4. Designed and implemented by the government.

    Add that its name is derived from a fantasy novel, and why, yes, I do believe that this story is absolutely true.

  • Could this tools be used to see what do politicians, the top 1%, judges and the people in high ranks in the government agencies? you know, the "we the people" could give a good use of it to make sure that the ones they elect do right their job.

  • LOL (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 0123456 (636235) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:15PM (#38175802)

    The problem with the 'all-seeing eye' is that it sees everything and is overloaded with irrelevant details. After the next major terrorist attack the government will be asking why the 'intelligence' agencies yet again failed to detect them and the answer will be that they were wasting their time chasing up thousands of useless 'leads' spewed out by their surveillance systems.

  • ... the real Fikri (who?) is getting on with his/her/its nefarious activities on the other side of the country, while the decoy is just wondering when they'll twig. Aren't Mission Impossible style latex masks wonderful when the whole security system is designed around farcial recognition.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:21PM (#38175840) Journal
    Wasn't Palantir Technologies [wikipedia.org] one of the slimy corprospook outfits(along with the notorious H.B. Gary Federal and Berico technologies) commissioned to do a little proposal for some dirty-tricks work against Wikileaks after Bank of America decided to lawyer up(with a little advice from the DOJ... How's that for a public defender?)

    Oh yes, yes they were...

    Fuck these guys and the horse they rode in on. Compared to a few pitiful fanatics who want to bomb everybody back to the 12th century, where they can feel at home, fine outfits like this are a much more serious threat to the aspects of our society worth saving.
    • Not only that, but the captivating example of Mr. Fikri is made up. I bet their system will never work as intended, but rather drain billions of dollars from taxpayers (which is arguably what was really intended). In the end, the system will be used to catch petty criminals and to further erode our rights, while the risks of terrorism remain less than of car accidents.

    • Mod Parent Up (Score:2, Informative)

      by bughunter (10093)

      This needs to be repeated anytime this product or its creator is mentioned in the press. These are not good guys, and this work will not be put to virtuous use.

    • by petsounds (593538)

      Which is rather ironic, considering Palantir has "full wiki markup capabilities", according to their video demo:

      Palantir Video Demo [palantirtech.com]

  • by Sean (422)

    Remember that "Total Information Awareness" program that was supposedly cut?

  • 451 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cornwallis (1188489) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:35PM (#38175906)

    When I first read Fahrenheit 451 decades ago what struck me most was when the authorities zeroed in on some hapless fall-guy who took the hit for Guy Montague. All that mattered to the public watching the video was that *someone* took the fall.

    It did not matter if a crime took place. It did not matter if the real perp got caught. The public need for resolution was achieved at the expense of some/anyone. In my current work with databases I see errors that get accepted as fact even if I explain why the error occurs. Similar to my dear departed grandmother telling me "I saw it on TV so it must be true". Good grief, why is everyone so willing to hand-off their self-actualization/responsibility to some government flunkies?

    Right about the same time my parents gave me 1984 to read and I've been watching us ride that slippery slope. So sad and so unnecessary except it DOES keep the powers-that-be in power!

    • "IBM and the Holocaust" by Edwin Black will teach you more about the mechanics of a totalitarian state than all of the dystopian novels we had to read in high school.

    • by mikael (484)

      UK had situations like that in the past - whenever there was some serious crime like a bombing, the pressure was on the government to catch those invididuals. They passed that pressure onto the police, who promptly attempted to fit up the first suspects they could find.

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @03:47PM (#38175964) Journal

    Is Echelon, which was operated by the "five eyes" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AUSCANNZUKUS) still in operation? Is Palantir tied into it? Presumably that would give it a lot more data to work with.

    Anyway, I'd be much more concerned with making sure the data matched with the right person. For example, remember how many spellings there were for Colonel Qaddafi, and he presumably wasn't trying to mask his identity! (At the U.N.: "I'm sorry Mr. Qaddafi but we don't have you down as speaking to the general assembly now, we have someone by the name of Khaddafi".)

    I wonder if the recently announced initiative to collect the biometrics data for EVERY living Afghani (which will then be given to the U.S.) was "encouraged" by the U.S. for this reason. I doubt that the Indian effort to do the same for 1.2 BILLION(!) Indians had anything to do with the U.S. (but you never know, both countries ARE U.S. allies). I guess we'll know if other U.S. "allies" in the middle east (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq?) follow suit. THEN these systems could begin to really track down terrorists (who by and large come from that part of the world).

    • by sirdude (578412)
      While Indian-US relationships have certainly thawed substantially in the last few years, calling them allies is a bit of a stretch (as is your theory :P) Pakistan is considered the American ally (although that has taken a hit today) in the region and are also the source of a lot of international (and national) terrorists.
    • echelon is old. it has evolved into other things.

      they have replaced it with newer stuff. see for example NSA's Thinthread, Trailblazer, and Turbulence projects.

      i dont know much about the biometrics in Afghanistan, the first step would be figuring out which agency is responsible for gathering the data, then figuring out which agency is responsible for storing the data.

  • What clearly designed graphical interface is TFA talking about in Mission Impossible? Shouldn't the reference be to Minority Report [google.com] instead? :S
  • Since the CIA have all this info, they should be allowed to data mine it as much as they please. They get most of this info from people using credit cards (at least in the example). It's entirely optional to use credit cards, and people should be more careful about using them if they think it's creepy that the government can put together the info they are handing over. Alternatively, I think there would be large demand for a financial service that was easier to use than cash, but didn't hand over all the tr
  • Were is the line (Score:3, Insightful)

    by deodiaus2 (980169) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @04:29PM (#38176134)
    Unfortunately, there is very little enforcement about the line between terrorists and dissidents. Suppose that the African Civil Rights program were in motion right now, instead of during the 1960's. How many of the activities that happened then would be considered fighting for freedom vs fighting against the US. Or suppose that the South were trying to succeed from the Union. Would that be considered treason, or fighting for one's own liberty?
    Fundamentally, a government which has enormous power over the constituents is considered right no matter what the fundamental issues are at hand. People are very persuaded and easily motivated to tow the party line, especially if they have somewhat of a stake in the outcome.
    Consider the bail out of the US banks in 2008. Something like 70% of the people did not support the bailout, yet it went through. Suppose that citizens had taken up arms to influence this decision. How many of those people would have been successful in stopping their future tax revenues from ending up in the hands of rich and elite gamblers who decided to speculate in MBSs? With this level of surveillance, it would be easy to round up and send off to detention camps those who publicly opposed OUR government. The rest would fall into line. We laugh at the Soviets, but we have the best form of government that money can buy.
  • Those of you who are making the connection with Sauron would do well to remember that the Seeing Stones had many good and important uses before one fell into Sauron's hands. The Stones themselves were not evil. For the real-life analog, see http://www.palantirtech.com/government/analysis-blog/haiti [palantirtech.com]

    Anyway, not a fan of increased government surveillance, but calling "Big Brother" because the government is working to share data more effectively strikes me as equivalent to assuming that every person using Bitto

  • Even before 911, the US had a pretty strict visa policy.. Yes there were/are abuses, mostly people coming and never going back. It's part of what makes 911 so suspicious. People were, and are, declined visas every day even without explanation. People with legitimate passports and visa's were and are turned back at the port of entry.. There is no "right to visit the US".. The whole point of a visa system is to weed out bad intent.. The whole point of a passport system, is to control entry.. It's why we have
  • by PPH (736903)

    Just catching up with FaceBook.

  • In a decade, this will be merely commercial grade, and corporations will use it to track their employees. Some people will actually like giving up their anonymity in exchange for a modicum of security. Eventually, everyone will be tracked all the time. Of course, there will be HUGE abuses, as usual. The abuses will not stop it from happening; you know that even as much as you hate to know it.
  • by petsounds (593538) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @05:21PM (#38176334)

    Palantir Video Demo [palantirtech.com]

    Looks more like a executive dashboard Windows app than Minority Report, but that's journalism for you. It doesn't make what it enables any less frightening though, and it does seem like a pretty sophisticated product (created on the backs of admittedly low-paid programmers). The whole idea of "let's give the government some tools so they don't REALLY frack us over" is such flawed logical thinking based on the history of the powers given to the US government, and I would dare to say incredibly disingenuous. These guys want to make money, and Palantir is the means to that end.

    It should be noted that they are also using the tech to expand into other markets, such as finance and biotech. It is, in an abstract sense, a way to deal with information overload, and as we are in the Information Age, this is a smart product to create. But these guys have gone off the ethical deep-end, and whether they are morally bankrupt or just terribly misguided, they are in effect "collaborators" with the groups within the US government who are destroying the last strands of American ideals.

  • Palantir is merely a GUI front end to a query engine. In principle it is the same as SAS, R or any other such tool. This particular marketing blurb could have been written with any of these tools as an example.

    What makes this software dangerous is how it could be used in the wrong hand, people who have access to sensitive data.

    Ultimately there will always be such tools. The issue is controlling the data they can be used on and by who.

  • by martijnd (148684) on Saturday November 26, 2011 @06:56PM (#38176958)

    > The day Fikri drives to Orlando, he gets a speeding ticket,

    Speeding ticket information is hard to get for the USA as a whole, but in 2011 the NYPD alone has issued:

    As for individual Boroughs, Brooklyn saw the most traffic tickets issued (141,971), followed by Queens (128,098), Manhattan (115,428), Bronx (71,786), and Staten Island (27,388). (source [nytickethelp.com]

    So the chances of an analyst checking this particular drivers information are.... close to zero probably. Another useless system.

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