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Full Version: "It Was Wall Street Meets Apocalypse Now": Why Palantir "Knows Everything About You"
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Palantir, the secretive Silicon Valley startup that is an object of popular fascination thanks to its work with US intelligence, is having a surprisingly difficult time recruiting clients among the world's largest companies - a line of business that its backers, a group that includes PayPal founder Peter Thiel, have identified as crucial to the company's long-term survival and profitability.

In one of the first looks under the company's hood, Bloomberg revealed that Palantir has never turned a profit - despite being valued at $20 billion in 2015. The company has roughly 2,000 engineers deployed at various client sites. But the company's high installation and maintenance fees have repelled several potential clients.

But in addition to details about the companies finances and business model, the sprawling piece also included several alarming examples of what can only be described as NSA-like overreach by the company. The story begins at JP Morgan, where former secret service agent Peter Cavicchia III ran special operations for the bank ensconced in an office suite in the top floors of JPM's Jersey City building.

Cavicchia's colleagues said the bank allowed the 120 Palantir engineers who worked inside its offices and Cavicchia, their leader, almost unchecked surveillance power. And pretty soon employees at the bank became paranoid that the extent of Palantir's surveillance had become too scary to ignore. Even the bank's senior executives were being watched, according to BBG's sources (who, we imagine, leaked this information despite the immense risk of being caught and fired).

Over time, however, Cavicchia himself went rogue. Former JPMorgan colleagues describe the environment as Wall Street meets Apocalypse Now, with Cavicchia as Colonel Kurtz, ensconced upriver in his office suite eight floors above the rest of the bank’s security team. People in the department were shocked that no one from the bank or Palantir set any real limits. They darkly joked that Cavicchia was listening to their calls, reading their emails, watching them come and go. Some planted fake information in their communications to see if Cavicchia would mention it at meetings, which he did.

It all ended when the bank’s senior executives learned that they, too, were being watched, and what began as a promising marriage of masters of big data and global finance descended into a spying scandal. The misadventure, which has never been reported, also marked an ominous turn for Palantir, one of the most richly valued startups in Silicon Valley. An intelligence platform designed for the global War on Terror was weaponized against ordinary Americans at home.

And JPM was just the beginning. As BBG explains, Palantir's specialty is using its data analytics powers to draw connections that weaker software might miss. For example, determining that an employee is disgruntled based on the fact that he or she stopped showing up to work on time.