And you thought Minority Report was science fiction…

A spate of recent news stories reveals that Palantir, the data analysis company co-founded and run by Peter Thiel, has been working in virtual secrecy for more than six years on a huge database in New Orleans that includes people, addresses, online publications, vehicles and weapons, all with the goal of preventing crimes before they are committed.

The existence of the sinister project only came to light when New Orleans City Hall decided to end the program, set up by Mayor Mitch Landrieu in 2012 at the recommendation of leading Democrat James Carville. As the program had been carried out gratis by Palantir, it was never accounted for and went unnoticed by the vast majority of municipal authorities.

Palantir is one of the leading companies in its field, with innumerable government and military contracts to collect and analyze data not just for the aforementioned crime prevention program, but military intelligence and border surveillance, as well as dealing with natural disasters. Peter Thiel, in addition to being known for his activities as an investor and founder of companies such as PayPal, is a staunch defender of Donald Trump’s technology policies, recently moving from Silicon Valley to Los Angeles.

Palantir has not only been collecting data on the people New Orleans for more than six years without public knowledge, but also plays a key role in implementing many of the policies implemented by Donald Trump such as tougher border controls, based on information travelers publish on social networks. In other words, we’re now pretty much in the world created in the 2002 movie Minority Report. Similar systems have already been rolled out by police departments in other cities by companies such as IBM or the more specialized PredPol.

Meanwhile, in China, the government of President-for-life Xi Jinping has announced that it will start imposing further restrictions on the movement of people with a low social score due to activities that may range from spreading “false information” on the internet to smoking on trains and planes or travelling without a ticket on public transport, along with not paying fines or social security contributions. The social score system also affects friends and family of undesirables: if you are related to somebody with a low score, yours can be lowered; a policy clearly designed to isolate those with the “wrong attitudes”. The system, based on the principle of “once untrustworthy, always restricted”, has been in operation for some years: as a result, in 2017 it is estimated that around 6.15 million people were prevented from using trains and planes.

No longer just in a movie theater near you: Minority Report is everywhere.


(En español, aquí)