Peter Thiels CI-Abacked, data-mining firm honed its crime predicting techniques against insurgents in Iraq. The same techniques are now being sold to police departments. Will they inflame already tense relations between the public and the police?
In Minority Report, the 2002 movie adaptation of the Philip K Dick novel, Tom Cruise plays a police officer in the LAPD pre-crime unit. Using the premonitions of sentient mutants called pre-cogs, the police are able to predict when someone is going to commit international crimes before it happens, swooping down from helicopters and apprehending them on the street before they can do anything. Their crime is that they simply thought about it.
Palantir, the CI-Abacked startup, is Minority Report come true. It is all-powerful, yet no one knows it even exists. Palantir does not have an office, it has a SCIF on a back street in Palo Alto, California. SCIF stands for sensitive compartmentalised information facility. Palantir tells its house must be built to be resistant to attempts to access the information within. The network must be airgapped from the public internet to avoid datum leakage.
Palantirs defence systems include advanced biometrics and walls impenetrable to radio waves, telephone signal or internet. Its data storage is blockchained: it cannot be accessed by merely sophisticated hacking, it requires digital pass codes held by dozens of independent parties, whose identities are themselves protected by blockchain.
What is Palantir protecting? A palantir is a seeing stone in JRR Tolkiens The Lord of the Rings; a dark orb used by Saruman to be able to see in darkness or blinding sun. Palantir means one that assures from afar, a mythical tool of omnipotence.
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