The U.K. government is considering using software from U.S. data analytics firm Palantir for coronavirus contact tracing in England, according to reports from Bloomberg and The Financial Times, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.
[NOTE: Palantir’s data mining functions on the backbone of Amazon Web Services (AWS).]
Officials are reportedly in talks about using the company’s Foundry software to manage sensitive contact-tracing data on the spread of the virus. It comes after the government failed to report 15,841 positive cases because an Excel spreadsheet containing contact-tracing data reached its maximum size and failed to automatically update.
Palantir has been described as the company that “knows everything about you” and its software is used by government surveillance agencies around the world for spying purposes.
From the Bloomberg Business news piece linked to above:
Founded in 2004 by Peter Thiel and some fellow PayPal alumni, Palantir cut its teeth working for the Pentagon and the CIA in Afghanistan and Iraq. The company’s engineers and products don’t do any spying themselves; they’re more like a spy’s brain, collecting and analyzing information that’s fed in from the hands, eyes, nose, and ears. The software combs through disparate data sources—financial documents, airline reservations, cellphone records, social media postings—and searches for connections that human analysts might miss. It then presents the linkages in colorful, easy-to-interpret graphics that look like spider webs. U.S. spies and special forces loved it immediately; they deployed Palantir to synthesize and sort the blizzard of battlefield intelligence.
From LA Magazine on Peter Thiel’s relationship with Donald Trump:
In 2016, billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel became the first openly gay person to speak at a Republican convention in nearly a generation. Thiel was an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump from the get-go, ultimately donating around $1.25 million to help him become president. But, [t]hese days, Thiel reportedly describes the Trump campaign as the “S.S. Minnow,” a reference to the shipwrecked boat from Gilligan’s Island, and insiders say he has “ghosted” the campaign’s overtures.