Data mining firm Palantir’s software was used by a U.S. government agency during an operation in 2017 in which immigrants crossing the border were arrested for deportation, newly released documents (PDF) have shown, contradicting the $20 billion firm’s earlier public statements.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement documents, obtained by advocacy organization Mijente through Freedom of Information Act litigation, notes that agents of ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations used Palantir’s software to build profiles of immigrant children and their family members for the prosecution and arrest of any undocumented person they encountered in their investigation.
When an ICE investigation agent located an unaccompanied minor, the documents reveal, they were instructed to log the “arrival in the Investigative Case Management (ICM) system.” ICM is a software platform developed by Palantir for “managing and investigating complex cases,” according to a description on the company’s website.
The findings of Palantir’s involvement, first reported by The Intercept, is in contrast to the Silicon Valley firm’s previous claims. The firm told The New York Times last year that it only works with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division, which is responsible for cross-border criminal investigations.
“The other major directorate, Enforcement and Removal Operations, or E.R.O., is responsible for interior civil immigration enforcement, including deportation and detention of undocumented immigrants. We do not work for E.R.O,” a spokesperson was quoted as saying.
TechCrunch has reached out to Palantir for additional comment.
Mijente, which had separately reported last year that Palantir was among the handful of firms working with ICE, urged the Silicon Valley company to drop its contract with ICE and called on the firm’s investors to not invest in a company that “played a key role in family separation.”
The findings this week further underscore the vast tentacles of billionaire Peter Thiel’s data mining company’s surveillance and reach. “Palantir, a software firm headquartered in Palo Alto, California, has a history of government contracts involving military, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies.”
The firm was founded by Thiel, the PayPal co-creator-turned-investor who is one of President Trump’s most vocal supporters in Silicon Valley. It develops software that helps agents analyze massive amounts of personal data — phone numbers, addresses, financial information, social media profiles — and build profiles for prosecution and arrest, Mijente said.
And it comes at a time when a growing number of tech giants are facing backlash from their employees and other citizens alike over their tech being used by the government for questionable objectives.