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US Department of Labor Is Suing Peter Thiel's Startup 'Palantir' For Discriminating Against Asians (reuters.com) 469

Palantir Technologies is a secretive start-up in Silicon Valley that specializes in big data analysis. It was founded in 2004 by Peter Thiel, Alex Karp, Joe Lonsdale, Stephen Cohen, and Nathan Gettings, and is backed by the FBI and CIA as it "helps government agencies track down terrorists and uncover financial fraud," according to Reuters. Today, the U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that it discriminated against Asian job applicants. Reuters reports: The lawsuit alleges Palantir routinely eliminated Asian applicants in the resume screening and telephone interview phases, even when they were as qualified as white applicants. In one example cited by the Labor Department, Palantir reviewed a pool of more than 130 qualified applicants for the role of engineering intern. About 73 percent of those who applied were Asian. The lawsuit, which covers Palantir's conduct between January 2010 and the present, said the company hired 17 non-Asian applicants and four Asians. "The likelihood that this result occurred according to chance is approximately one in a billion," said the lawsuit, which was filed with the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges. The majority of Palantir's hires as engineering interns, as well as two other engineering positions, "came from an employee referral system that disproportionately excluded Asians," the lawsuit said. Palantir denied the allegations in a statement and said it intends to "vigorously defend" against them. The lawsuit seeks relief for persons affected, including lost wages.
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US Department of Labor Is Suing Peter Thiel's Startup 'Palantir' For Discriminating Against Asians

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  • by BigBuckHunter ( 722855 ) on Monday September 26, 2016 @09:18PM (#52966941)
    Statistically, the vast majority of Chinese spies engaged in corporate espionage and trade secret acquisition are asian.
    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      Statistically, the vast majority of Chinese spies engaged in corporate espionage and trade secret acquisition are asian.

      Not the good ones... those are the expendable decoys meant to be caught.

    • by lrichardson ( 220639 ) on Tuesday September 27, 2016 @06:26AM (#52968499) Homepage

      We had an ugly situation locally, where a supremely over-qualified graduate, from a top-tier university, was passed over for even an interview, and sued. Born Chinese. The company in question does sensitive work, and had run an extensive program to detect leaks/spies ... and every person they identified was Chinese. They started running the same process on new hires ... and, over a five year period, every Chinese hire turned out to be a spy. So the company simply stopped hiring Chinese. At some point, you can sympathize with their position: why the eff are they spending huge amounts on this aspect of security, when simply saying 'No Chinese hires' solves most of the problem?

      It sucks, but unless the governments start treating corporate espionage seriously, and make the penalties serious enough that people won't engage in this behaviour, it is going to continue.

      The other issue is that even second - and sometimes third - generation Chinese are leaned on, because they still have family back in China. Again, really sucks, but companies are just protecting themselves.

      The question becomes, at what point does 'Not hiring Chinese' go from discrimination to simply safe practice? There isn't a clear answer :(

  • by TsuruchiBrian ( 2731979 ) on Monday September 26, 2016 @09:19PM (#52966945)

    If we assume that all races of people are equally good at basketball, how can it be explained that 74.4% of basketball players are African American but African Americans only make up 13.2% of the population? The chances that there is no discrimination is way lower than 1 in a billion.

    • We already know why. Fast twitch muscle. But being good at working at startups that spy on the American people is equally good for all races.
      • So if fast twitch muscles is the explanation for why African Americans are good at basketball, would you say that other sports which don't see African American participation levels comparable to 74.4% are discriminating against them?
      • by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Monday September 26, 2016 @10:12PM (#52967173) Journal
        Wait, are you saying there are physiological differences between people? I am triggered! Time to sue! But first - do you have as much money as Peter Thiel?
    • This assumes that the two populations produce an equal number of top tier basketball players, which is highly unlikely to be true so with the assumption being false, the rest of the argument doesn't logically follow. But me simply saying it's unlikely to be true isn't really much better in terms of logical reasoning so consider the following argument as well:

      In a sport like basketball where there are only a few players on the court at any one time, a single star player can vastly improve a team's success
    • If we assume that all races of people are equally good at basketball, how can it be explained that 74.4% of basketball players are African American but African Americans only make up 13.2% of the population? The chances that there is no discrimination is way lower than 1 in a billion.

      And the fastest times in every event at the Olympics are all held by men! The discrimination is infinite!

    • by gijoel ( 628142 )
      Stereotype threat. [wikipedia.org]
    • If we assume that all races of people are equally good at basketball, how can it be explained that 74.4% of basketball players are African American but African Americans only make up 13.2% of the population? The chances that there is no discrimination is way lower than 1 in a billion.

      Basketball makes up a bigger part of African American culture, generating an excess amount of talent. This is also why there's so many more elite Canadian hockey players. It also explains why volleyball players are disproportionately white (despite a similar height bias).

      And yes, there may also be a difference in athleticism, similar to how East Africans are great distance runners and West Africans great sprinters.

      However, you can still have discrimination even when the two populations have different talent

      • I never meant to imply that there couldn't be racism. My point was that these numbers showing racial outcome of a test do not alone do not prove any racism. You actually have to do the work of controlling for competence, rather than simply assuming every population is equally competent.
    • We cannot - therefore, your assumption must be incorrect, in a case of proof by contradiction.

      Sports are physical events, where certain biological differences clearly affect performance. Race does involve biological factors besides just skin color, and some scientists have concluded that sub-saharan africans (not just "blacks", but a more specific subgroup) have a leg-length-to-body-size ratio that favors the kind of movement seen in basketball. You will find a similar bias towards taller basketball players

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Time_Ngler ( 564671 )

        However, no reproducible study has found a statistically significant difference in mental capacity between humans of different races.

        http://www.iq-tests.eu/iq-test... [iq-tests.eu]

        • Technically, there are no human 'races', as we can all interbreed. However, I'll forgive your lapse :) That said, there is one ethnic group - identifiable by both genetics and culture - that actually does have a statistically significant higher IQ: the Askenazi Jews. And yes, there have been several studies, so that qualifies as 'reproducible'.
        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          No, this has been widely debunked. There are many factors, including the tests themselves being biased towards certain cultures, access to education, general levels of health in populations and so forth that explain observed differences. Race itself is considered a social construct, not a biological or genetic one. The IQ test itself is somewhat dubious.

          Wikipedia covers it in extensive detail. [wikipedia.org]

          The main supporters of the theory that race has a significant link to IQ are openly linked to white supremacist grou

      • Philosophers syndrome: Mistaking a failure of imagination for an insight into necessity.

        It doesn't even need to be the case that there is a difference in mental capabilities between races. It could be that certain groups have a culture that leads them to be better or worse at certain tasks on average, and those groups can be predominantly of one race/ethnicity. It could be that some cultures cause people to be overconfident in their abilities (e.g. causing them to be more likely to apply for jobs they are

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Being tall is an advantage when playing basketball. Being non-Asian doesn't seem to be a help in doing data analysis. This can easily be checked by comparing the Asian candidate's qualifications and experience. I imagine this will be checked in court.

      Or are you trying to use the widely debunked argument that white people are just more intelligent?

  • Maybe the recruiter at their agency was Australian. It seems to have been a problem at least once in the past. [youtube.com]
  • do they think the applicants come with a hardware backdoor?
  • by BradMajors ( 995624 ) on Monday September 26, 2016 @09:44PM (#52967063)

    Meanwhile, you will see many Silicon Valley job descriptions for low level engineers that require the ability to speak Chinese.

    • I've never seen those. Can you post an example? Not questioning your claim, just legitimately curious. I wonder if it's related to being able to read datasheets.
      • look at many of the apple job ads. they hint that you may be traveling to asia for work projects, but they do say that you need to speak chinese to work on many of the projects.

        apple also lists many jobs that are for 'interns' and you know what that means: low pay and young age, only.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The ability to speak Chinese (you probably mean Mandarin) is not limited to a race any more than the ability to speak English is. If a Chinese national can learn English you can also learn Mandarin.

      Thus, this is not racial discrimination, as would be, for example not hiring Asians.

    • by jcr ( 53032 )

      That's not an unreasonable requirement, given the need to work with manufacturing operations in China.

      -jcr

  • by Bartles ( 1198017 ) on Monday September 26, 2016 @09:45PM (#52967071)

    ...that government agencies are apolitical?

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Monday September 26, 2016 @09:51PM (#52967093)

    Considering they are in the game of information warfare, I'm not surprised they are excluding Asians. Regardless of what's being said, the US and China are in an information war and the two countries that steal the most information are the US and China. I'm betting the Asians they did hire are Japanese or South Korean.
    I don't blame them for discriminating and I wouldn't blame a Chinese company doing the same thing for excluding US allies from their list of potential hires.

    • I once applied to huawei (sp?) for a networking job. not that I wanted to work there, per se, but I was in dire need of a job and a recruiter contacted me about this place.

      one of the first questions from the interviewer on the phone was:

      "so, why do you, an american, want to work for a chinese company?"

      it went downhill from there.....

      glad I didn't get the job. from reading glassdoor, if you are not chinese and don't speak it, you'll never get anywhere in this place; and its right in the middle of silicon v

  • 17 to 4 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Monday September 26, 2016 @10:14PM (#52967183)
    So they hired 4 Asians, and 17 Non-Asians, and the Labor Department calls that "1 in a billion chance"? Well, what if the pool of 17 Non-Asians was made up of 5 White, 4 African, 4 Latino, and 4 European? That would seem to me to be WELL ROUNDED!
  • by Bartles ( 1198017 ) on Monday September 26, 2016 @10:42PM (#52967303)

    Universities in America discriminate against Asians in exactly the same way. Literally exactly the same way. Asians are admitted at a much lower rate than of which they apply.

    • I have no problem with this. Culture is important, and if we were to globally distribute every race on earth I'd be a minority in my own country.
      Culture has value, we need to ensure we retain some of it.
  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Monday September 26, 2016 @11:05PM (#52967379)
    If you hire in proportion to how many applicants of each race you get, you are sued for racial discrimination because the racial makeup of your employees doesn't match the general population.

    If you hire in proportion to the racial makeup of the general population, you are sued for racial discrimination because you didn't hire in proportion to how many applicants of each race you got.

    Step 1: Establish laws where people are guilty no matter what they do.
    Step 2: Those in power decide which people/companies are undesirable.
    Step 3: Sue them and only them for violating those laws.

    Big Brother would be proud.
    • Dial in the paranoia there buddy.

      You can sue anyone at any time for any reason and on the grounds of no merit whatsoever, regardless of the law. Just because someone's being sued doesn't mean they're going to lose and it also doesn't mean they've done something contrary to the laws. Those two things are of course often quite unrelated.

      • The plaintiff in this case is the US Department of Labor. They're not supposed to sue people without good reason, but the allegations as stated are very thin, and IMO likely to lead to a loss in court. Palantir will probably be entirely vindicated, but only after spending way more on lawyers than should be required.

        • Palantir will probably be entirely vindicated, but only after spending way more on lawyers than should be required.

          That's a flaw with the legal system, and has nothing to do with paranoia over anti discrimination laws. I've been a victim of such things, from a private individual. I'm 100% sure the case had no merit, but I had to settle out of court because not only did I not have the time or money to fight properly, but being involved in a legal dispute would have spelled death for my company at that stage.

          • by Entrope ( 68843 )

            Sure, the US legal system is designed to make it easy for people to sue. You're overlooking my point: We should expect the government to be more discerning in its (civil) lawsuits than the "average" case. When the federal government prosecutes abusive lawsuits that cost citizens time, money, and stress, at least two branches of the government have failed.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      False dichotomy. Notice how certain sports that are dominated by certain races don't get sued for discrimination? That's because they hire based mostly on ability, which is fair and non-discriminatory.

      To be clear I'm not saying that sport is free from discrimination, far from it, I'm saying that the requirement is to hire without discrimination against protected classes, not to reach some arbitrary statistical goal. Stats are only used as a basic measure of diversity, but when there is a non-discriminatory

  • WOW, this is fucked (Score:5, Informative)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Monday September 26, 2016 @11:46PM (#52967549) Journal
    This company works with TLAs so they are obviously working hard to hire ppl that are NOT SPIES. Yet, we have 2 main types of Spies to be concerned about: Russian and Chinese. Chinese and Indian account for the vast majority of the Asian ppl. Obviously, the CHinese are going to be looked over hard. So, that leaves the Indians. And oddly, within India's military, they are VERY close to Russia. Much closer to Russia than to the west. As such, Indians are going to be looked at as well.

    And dept. of Labor is saying that we must hire ppl of which a known quantity is going to be spies.

    I have dealt with 1-2 spies already and both were Chinese. I would hate to have Dept. of Labor be able to control a company that deals with national security to this degree.
  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <[moc.cam] [ta] [rcj]> on Tuesday September 27, 2016 @01:18AM (#52967753) Journal

    The department of labor found a statistical anomaly, and decided to try to nail Thiel for supporting Trump.

    -jcr

  • But I'm not Asian. I just didn't make the final cut. Nice people though. I did get a nice T-shirt :)
  • some perspective (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bnmm ( 846728 ) on Tuesday September 27, 2016 @02:26AM (#52967929)

    http://www.unz.com/isteve/obam... [unz.com]
    Obama Admin Sues CIA-funded Counter-espionaged Firm Palantir for Only Hiring 44% Asians

    - Palantir partner Information Warfare Monitor used Palantir software to uncover both the Ghostnet and the Shadow Network. The Ghostnet was a China-based cyber espionage network targeting 1,295 computers in 103 countries, including the Dalai Lama’s office, a NATO computer and embassies. The Shadow Network was also a China-based espionage operation that hacked into the Indian security and defense apparatus. Cyber spies stole documents related to Indian security, embassies abroad, and NATO troop activity in Afghanistan.

    So, maybe, the reason Palantir gets 85% of its job applications for software engineer from Asians but only hires 44% Asian has something to do with, I don’t know, Chinese espionage?

  • . . . hint: most are Federal "three-letter-agancies". Which means, to get hired, you not only need the skills, but the ability to obtain a high-level security clearance.

    That means, first, US Citizenship, and preferably by birth, just because of the logistics of a clearance investigation. Secondly, the more ties of blood one has to people in non-US countries, the harder it is to get the required clearance. . . .and third, depending on background and origin of those blood ties, some nations (China comes to mind) are far more problematic than others. . .

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