Palantir is not a data company (Palantir Explained, #1)

Palantir
Palantir
Nov 11, 2020 · 3 min read

Palantir has often been described as a secretive company. There is some truth to this. For many years, we primarily served institutions with exceptional confidentiality expectations in fields like defence and intelligence. We often had little choice but to remain silent about our work, even when misunderstandings about the nature of our business appeared in the media or in the public sphere.

Now that we serve clients in a wider range of sectors, we have an opportunity to be more open. This is particularly true for sectors like healthcare, where Palantir’s software is used to process personal data. People have a right to understand how Palantir technology works, and how our customers use it.

Common misconceptions recur, particularly around the assumption that Palantir can use or transfer client data for its own purposes, or can join data from different clients together to sell on. This is not how we operate and never has been. In this blog post, we will explain more about the nature of Palantir’s business.

This blog post will be the first in a series, Palantir Explained, that will explore a range of topics, including our approach to privacy, security, AI/ML safety and more. We hope you find these blogs useful and informative; and we welcome feedback. If you find these blog posts inspiring and would like to join us in solving the challenges described, have a look at the opportunities we have available — we’d love to hear from you.

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Palantir’s business model

Unlike many tech companies, our business model is not based on the monetisation of personal data. We do not collect, store, or sell personal data. We don’t use personal data to train proprietary AI or machine learning models to share or resell to other customers. We never facilitate the movement of data between clients, except where those specific clients have entered into an agreement with each other.

We build digital infrastructure for data-driven operations and decision making. Our products serve as the connective tissue between an organisation’s data, its analytics capabilities, and operational execution. Palantir’s platforms tie these together by bringing the right data to the people who need it, allowing them to take data-driven decisions, conduct sophisticated analytics, and refine operations through feedback. We license this software to organisations, who receive secure and unique instances of our platforms in which to conduct their own work on their own data.

This infrastructure helps organisations bring the right data together at the right time to answer complex questions and make intelligent decisions. This is particularly valuable when existing systems are fragmented, and essential information is held in silos that can’t communicate with each other. Healthcare organisations, for instance, have used our software to tackle challenges like efficiently allocating PPE supplies when thousands of hospitals across the country have radically different and constantly changing levels of supply and demand for each item of PPE.

These platforms are used in some of the most sensitive and secure information environments in the world, necessitating world-class data protection and governance. As such, we have an exceptionally strong information security record.

With regards to customer data, we act as a data processor, not a data controller. Our software and services are used under direction from the organisations that license our products: these organisations define what can and cannot be done with their data; they control the Palantir accounts in which analysis is conducted; and any Palantir engineers that assist them in their work follow these directions. We do not and cannot reuse or transfer our clients’ data for our own purposes. Attempting to profit from customer data in this way would be illegal and would undermine the trust that is necessary to work in the sensitive environments in which we have built our business.

Technology companies should be scrutinised, especially when their technology is used by governments. To that end, we hope this series of blog posts will provide readers with more insight into our business and a deeper understanding of some of the key features of our technology. In our next post, we will discuss Purpose-Based Access Controls. Please feel free to reach out at business@palantir.com.

To learn more about Palantir, visit our website.

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