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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Everyone is a spidergram now

Freedom, Privacy
Author: Mark Dixon
Thursday, April 19, 2018
12:46 pm

Has mis-use of surveillance and analytics technology become ingrained in our culture?  Not long ago, it was the NSA surveillance scandal the rocked our sensibilities.  Now Facebook and and Cambridge Analytics are in the forefront of public consciousness.  And what technology did Cambridge Analytica use to process the data taken from Facebook? Palantir – a data analytics company that claims “We believe in augmenting human intelligence, not replacing it.”

A somewhat chilling Bloomberg article, “Palantir Knows Everything About You,” the authors claim,

Peter Thiel’s data-mining company is using War on Terror tools to track American citizens. The scary thing? Palantir is desperate for new customers.

The article further explains:

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.

This leads to my favorite sentence from the article, “Everyone is a spidergram now.”

Imagine that you are at the center off a spidergram like the one for Peter Thiel, but that your relationships and connections are shown, not his. How would you like such information to be revealed? 


How is it possible that a company founded to help protect citizens of the United States could mis-use technology to spy on the very citizens it was supported to protect?

I think the article got it right, “The scary thing? Palantir is desperate for new customers.”

In my observation, any mis-use of technology can be traced directly to the desire for money or power, and often both. If we want to understand the motivation behind such mis-use, just remember the famous words of Rod Tidwell (Cuba Goodiing, Jr.) in the film Jerry Maguire …

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