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Palantir’s User Guide: Mass Surveillance Made Simple

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Palantir's User Guide: Mass Surveillance Made Simple

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Palantir has a top-secret user manual for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as law enforcement to secretly track families, Vice reported.

The document can be found on Document Cloud, completely public, as per Vice.

Prior to going into details, it should be reminded that Palantir is famous as “the company that knows everything about you,” found by PayPala’s Peter Thiel with known connections to the CIA.

The company acts as an information management service for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, corporations like JP Morgan and Airbus, and dozens of other local, state, and federal agencies. It’s been described by scholars as a “secondary surveillance network,” since it extensively catalogs and maps interpersonal relationships between individuals.

Any individuals, not those suspected to have committed a crime.

What exactly Palantir does, how it does it and why comes down largely to speculation, but it is clear that since 2014 it has had contracts in the range between $41 to $51 million per year from ICE. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement was allowed access to Palantir’s tracking database and management software.

VICE got access to the user manual through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The investigation sheds light mostly on the dealings of Palantir Gotham, which is used by law enforcement agencies like the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC).

The NCIRC serves approximately 300 communities in northern California and it is a sort of “fusion center,” a Department of Homeland Security intelligence center that aggregates and investigates information from state, local, and federal agencies, as well as some private entities, into large databases that can be searched using software like Palantir.

The US Department of Justice’s Fusion Center Guidelines list the following as collection targets:

Palantir's User Guide: Mass Surveillance Made Simple

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The guide doesn’t just show how Gotham works. It also shows how police are instructed to use the software. The following image provides insight into how to search for a person’s record in Palantir:

Palantir's User Guide: Mass Surveillance Made Simple

Click to see full-size image

It shows that even without knowing any significant information on a person of interest and reach quite the intimate details about the individual’s life.

The guide includes the following information:

  • If police have a name that’s associated with a license plate, they can use automatic license plate reader data to find out where they’ve been, and when they’ve been there. This can give a complete account of where someone has driven over any time period;
  • With a name, police can also find a person’s email address, phone numbers, current and previous addresses, bank accounts, social security number(s), business relationships, family relationships, and license information like height, weight, and eye color, as long as it’s in the agency’s database;
  • The software can map out a person’s family members and business associates of a suspect, and theoretically, find the above information about them, too.
Palantir's User Guide: Mass Surveillance Made Simple

Click to see full-size image

All of the data in Palantir is presented as an Object, which can be an “Entity,” an “Event” or a “Document.”

Palantir's User Guide: Mass Surveillance Made Simple

Click to see full-size image

In the Entity section, not only a person’s name and address are included, but also emails, bank account numbers, phone numbers, social security numbers, driver’s license data such as height, weight, eye color, and date of birth.

Though much of this kind of information is available to law enforcement via separate means, Vice reports that Palantir’s system “aggregates and synthesizes” it in such a way as to give “law enforcement nearly omniscient knowledge over any suspect they decide to surveil.”

As ICE prepares massive raids of immigrant families this upcoming weekend (July 19th-21st), the revealed Palantir system sheds light on how the government tracks and plans finds people to arrest and deport.

The guide includes an explanation on how to perform two types of searches: people record searches, and vehicle record searches.

With the people record search, police can start out with a person’s name. Police can also input a phone number (with or without area code), a license plate number, or the dates of cases associated with that person.

“The results that appear are from LAPD and LASD data sources,” the Palantir guide says, “and include person records linked to crimes, citations, and arrests.”

Palantir's User Guide: Mass Surveillance Made Simple

Click to see full-size image

With the vehicle record search, police start by entering a license plate number. The results spit back any and all relevant information about that vehicle, and Palantir gives police the option of mapping or visualizing this information.

“The results show if the vehicle appeared in any crimes, arrests, field interviews, incidents, or citations, across both LAPD and LASD sources simultaneously,” the Palantir guide says.

Separately, the guide includes information on how to use three separate tools in the Palantir system:

  • The Histogram tool: it helps police find “correlations” and “trends” between different Objects, or data points. This can help police decipher a person’s behavior.
Palantir's User Guide: Mass Surveillance Made Simple

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  • The Map tool: The Map tool lets police do three things: complete “Geosearches,” create “Heatmaps,” and search an Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) database.

“The purple radius, polygon, route, or recent buttons allow you to draw a shape and search for objects/properties that are within the search area,” the Palantir guide says.

Palantir's User Guide: Mass Surveillance Made Simple

Click to see full-size image

  • The Object Explorer tool: it is a comprehensive analysis instruments that allows police to filter, sort, map, analyze and export dozens of different data points. It is focused on visualizing data and is different depending on what data is of interest.
Palantir's User Guide: Mass Surveillance Made Simple

Click to see full-size image

Palantir’s widely known ties to the CIA, paint a picture of constant surveillance of US citizens, that would usually constitute a scandal, but right now the system is being used against the “bad guy” – immigrant families trying to find a better life.

In contrast, any reports of presumed Chinese surveillance, for which Huawei’s 5G technology was blocked in the US is stirred up into a massive hysteria in MSM. At the same time, the all-encompassing surveillance by the CIA and other US security services goes completely ignored, since it doesn’t the narrative of fearmongering on the basis of an external threat.

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