blog If you’ve had an interest in the Internet surveillance and privacy world for a while, or, heck, just want to know how much your government is spying on you, you’ll be aware of the name ‘Palantir Technologies’. From being part of a plan to attack Wikileaks to aiding and abetting powerful interests from the finance sector to government with data mining information on individuals, Palantir seems to have its fingers in many pies these days. And now, according to a wide-ranging expose on the company published by Crikey, it has become clear that the firm is rapidly growing its operations down under. Crikey correspondent Bernard Keane writes (we recommend you click here for the full article):
“On the fourth floor of an office building on Northbourne Avenue, in what passes for Canberra’s CBD, is an outpost of a much talked-about company that has so far gone under the radar in Australia. It is, however, unlikely that many Australians have avoided the company’s forensic gaze.”
I’m very much in two minds about companies like Palantir. On one hand, it’s obvious that data mining techniques such as the company uses do exist and will continue to exist. Technology ever marches on, and there’s no way to regress, bury our heads in the sand and pretend that this kind of thing isn’t happening. The solution is, instead, to radically improve individuals’ personal technology security, while also pressuring governments to enact strong privacy legislation and make their law enforcement and intelligence agencies highly transparent.
However, I’m also conscious that this may not be enough to ensure that companies such as Palantir are able to collect data (so much data) on individuals, as well as providing tools to collect data. In this context, we also need to ask ourselves: Just because we have the technology, should we be using it, and to what extent? After all, governments globally have long had technology that they don’t use regularly. You don’t apply an atom bomb to every small war — you let it be fought with smaller arms. Palantir’s technology appears to represent an ‘atom bomb’ to destroy privacy. And we should be asking ourselves how, and under what circumstances, it should be allowed to be applied.