Palantir and Cambridge Analytica: what do we know?

Whistleblower Christopher Wylie appeared before British lawmakers on March 27 to expand on the inner workings of his former employer Cambridge Analytica, and his role in shaping the company that now stands at the center of a growing scandal about the misuse of personal data from Facebook. He drew another data company, Palantir, into his disclosures about the affair.

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During his hours-long testimony under parliamentary privilege protecting him from legal action, Wylie alleged that Cambridge Analytica had working links with privately owned Silicon Valley data analysis company Palantir.

“There was not an official contract between Palantir and Cambridge Analytica but there were Palantir staff that would come into the office and work on the data,” Wylie told the Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee, apparently referring to information from around 50 million Facebook profiles.

Wylie added that Palantir staff “helped build the models we were working on”. He also alleged that Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix had “several meetings” with Palantir.

Palantir initially denied the allegations entirely but later acknowledged that one of its staff worked with Cambridge Analytica “in an entirely personal capacity”.

In a statement to WikiTribune, Palantir said: “As a matter of company policy, we do not and have never worked on or been involved with elections or political campaigns anywhere in the world.” (Read the full statement below in Sources & References.)

What is Palantir?

Headquartered in Palo Alto, California, the company focuses on big data analysis and was founded in 2004 by Peter Thiel, Nathan Gettings, Joe Lonsdale, Stephen Cohen, and Alex Karp.

Its original clients were federal agencies of the United States Intelligence Community, a collection of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies. It also provides commercial services for banks, hedge funds, and financial services companies.

Palantir has worked for the National Security Agency and is backed by the Central Intelligence Agency’s non-profit venture capital fund (CNBC).

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        Palantir statement: “Palantir has never had a relationship with Cambridge Analytica. We were approached by individuals from Cambridge Analytica on multiple occasions, but we declined to move forward. As a matter of company policy, we do not and have never worked on or been involved with elections or political campaigns anywhere in the world. We learned today that an employee, in 2013-2014, engaged in an entirely personal capacity with people associated with Cambridge Analytica. We are looking into this and will take the appropriate action.”

        See also Leaked Palantir Doc Reveals Uses, Specific Functions And Key Clients

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