Data surrounds us; it's everywhere. And it’s what helped Palantir track and kill Osama Bin Laden. From phone calls to emails, from video chats to text messages, trillions of data bytes flood our tech infrastructure. As such, this creates plentiful information for analysts to sift through. Moreover, terrorist attacks like the 9/11 hijackings exemplify the importance of cyber surveillance and security. In response to an evolving global environment, intelligence agencies like the CIA demand new countermeasures to predict and prevent future attacks. However, given all the data floating around in the ether, humans are no longer capable of comprehensively analyzing information; call it data overload, but humans no longer suffice for rigorous research and reviews. Therefore, in an effort to improve defense, the CIA, NSA and other agencies served as primary investors for the most secretive company in America: Palantir.
Co-Founder & CEO Alex Karp originally developed Palantir in 2003 so as to assist defense agencies with cyber security and surveillance. Palantir is still private and, according to Karp, has little intention of issuing an IPO. Palantir focuses on big data analytics and cyber security, hence entering the stock market could jeopardize the privacy of Palantir’s clients. However, as for its customers, little is known about whom Palantir works with. Palantir has been rumored to work with large corporations (like financial institutions) to recognize fraudulent actions and prevent foreign cyber attacks, but little more is known. Nevertheless, one must wonder how the Palantir platform works?
Many of Palantir’s data-mining engineers came from Pay Pal, a company that became well-versed in cyber security because of Russian hackers. Palantir Co-founder Peter Thiel was also an early Pay Pal investor, and has undoubtedly helped recruit major Silicon Valley talent to Palantir. As for the platform, Palantir utilizes data-mining software solutions to organize vast amounts of data in ways that humans can more easily comprehend. The company provides threat assessments and predictive analytics that can, for instance, predetermine locations of IED attacks. Palantir was founded out of the CIA’s In-Q-Tel firm, whose mission statement is, “we identify, adapt, and deliver innovative technology solutions to support the missions of the Central Intelligence Agency and broader U.S. intelligence community.”
Palantir is now the intelligence community’s number one source for data mining solutions. It has been rumored that during the build up to the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, Palantir engineers participated in analyzing Al Qaeda operatives' correspondence and pinpointing Bin Laden’s location. Palantir is also rumored to have uncovered cyber espionage networks in China, and even tracked the hackers who reportedly installed malware on the Dalai Lama's computer.
Although Palantir’s software may be best applied to threat assessment and counter terrorism operations, it is now evolving into a B2B corporate service. According to Forbes, Palantir’s 2013 private sector revenue amounted to $450 million, or 60% of the company’s overall revenue. Moreover, now that Palantir the has secured funding at a $9 billion valuation, it is clear that big data analytics is the way of the future.