Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Last Call For Tracking The Virus (And Everything)

Two years ago I warned you about Palantir, the massive data-mining startup founded by Silicon Valley Trump donor (and probable vampire) Peter Thiel, who was busy snapping up Trump regime, corporate, and state government data analytics contracts to track everything from America's grocery store purchases to undocumented immigrants hiding from ICE by building digital profiles of everyone in America for sale to the highest bidder.

Now the Trump regime is counting on Palantir to track COVID-19 and to predict which states can "safely" resume opening businesses and public areas and when, to become the single source of the country's information on where the virus is.

Palantir, the data-mining firm created by investor Peter Thiel, is best known for its work with global intelligence, military, and law enforcement agencies. Now, the company has a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help the federal government create a new data platform called HHS Protect Now.

The Daily Beast has confirmed that Palantir will provide a major aspect of the analytics platform. Sources familiar told The Daily Beast that Palantir’s data suites will be a primary contributor to HHS Protect Now, if not the core element of the tool.

Palantir’s involvement in the creation of a new government coronavirus data platform system underscores the Trump administration’s reliance on close political allies of the president to respond to the global pandemic. Thiel was Trump’s earliest and highest-profile backer in Silicon Valley, and delivered a prime-time speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention. A top donor to conservative causes and the first outside investor in Facebook, Thiel was, according to The Wall Street Journal, instrumental in pushing the social networking giant to allow politicians to lie in advertisements on the platform. It’s a policy that many outside observers believe will help the Trump campaign—which Thiel has again pledged to support.

Palantir, which Thiel helped found—and still retains a sizeable stake in —has watched its already-lucrative government business skyrocket in the Trump era. Palantir “provided digital profiling tools” to Immigration and Customs Enforcement “as it carried out President Trump’s increasingly controversial policies for apprehending and deporting undocumented immigrants,” according to The Washington Post. The firm had anticipated going public, although the coronavirus may have delayed plans for an IPO.

The HHS Protect Now platform, which is set to be unveiled later this week, pulls data from across the federal government, state and local governments, healthcare facilities, and colleges, to help administration officials determine how to “mitigate and prevent spread” of the coronavirus, according to a spokesperson for the department.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus response, receives nightly briefings based off data compiled and analyzed on the platform, the spokesperson said. Birx has, over the past several weeks, often appeared at daily press briefings to speak about her analysis of coronavirus data-related testing, hospitalizations and community spread.

Two officials working with the administration’s coronavirus task force said the president is himself relying on Birx’s presentations in determining where and when to reopen parts of the U.S. economy. That positions HHS Protect Now as one of the most important data tools the federal government possesses.

Putting aside the huge ethical implications of one of Trump's largest donors getting a contract to be the company to track and provide critical health information during a global pandemic that's already killed 45,000 Americans, let's remember that the company happily worked with police departments in LA and New Orleans to profile millions of citizens and assign them "social scores" to mark them for further police harassment and arrest before committing crimes.

The New Orleans program was scrapped a few years ago, but the LAPD program didn't end until last year after existing since 2010.

Now Palantir is going to be tracking all of us for a virus, with the government's blessing.

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