Palantir Software Is Spying on the Whole World
“Donald Trump has inherited the most powerful machine for spying ever devised.”
February 25, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
The Intercept this week published an article by Sam Biddle reporting on the Trump administration’s new capabilities to spy on the whole world.
This spy software has been developed by a Silicon Valley-based company, Palantir. With the Palantir software, different programs can work as a stand-alone program—or in conjunction with current programs/software being used by government spy agencies like NSA (National Security Agency)—with “unmatched power to sift and exploit information of any kind.”
The Intercept article details many programs developed by Palantir and how they work and interact with other spy programs and who is using them. I will not get into all that in this letter, but some important features of what this company has provided to at least three members (U.S. and UK for sure) of the “Five Eyes” spy alliance (which includes the U.S., UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada) are important for people to grasp and understand the capabilities the spy agencies of these countries have.
The Palantir software has solved two problems that have existed in the previous spying software—being able to sift through massive amounts of data to analyze a specific objective and reducing the time it takes to do that.
The Intercept article reports on how the Palantir software has been “designed for the needs of intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security customers” by “importing large reams of ‘structured’ data (like spreadsheets) and ‘unstructured data’ (like images) into one centralized database, where all information can be visualized and analyzed in one workspace.” It “excels at making connections between enormous, separate databases, pulling big buckets of information (call records, IP addresses, financial transactions, names, conversations, travel records) into one centralized heap and visualizing them coherently, thus solving one of the persistent problems of modern intelligence gathering: data overload.” This has allowed the Five Eyes countries to pool and collect huge amounts of data, tens of billions of records, and use that data to spy on anyone and any organization in the world.
Palantir provided these countries with examples of how its programs can be used. One of the demonstrations was to show the flow of weapons through the Middle East by using equipment lot numbers, manufacturing data, and locations of Hezbollah training camps.
Another demonstration was to show how the software could identify Wikipedia users who belonged to “a fictional radical religious sect and graph their social relationships.” Using such things as political influences and tendencies of the group, the software was shown to be able to “de-anonymize and track members of any political or ideological group.”
The Intercept reported that one of the programs made it “far easier to analyze ... specific people and places” so that, for instance, “an analyst ... could pull every IP address in Moscow and Tehran that visited a given website or made a Skype call at 14:15 Eastern Time, for example, and then imported the resulting data set into Palantir in order to identify additional connections between addresses or plot their positions using Google Earth.”
One of the U.S. government’s surveillance programs exposed by Edward Snowden and published by the Guardian in 2013, XKEYSCORE, can be, as reported by The Intercept, imported into Palantir in order to analyze data collected from communications and other data that include “emails, chats, web-browsing traffic ... pictures, documents, voice calls, webcam photos, web searches, advertising analytics traffic, social media traffic, botnet traffic, logged keystrokes, computer network exploitation targeting, intercepted username and password pairs, file uploads to online services, Skype sessions and more.”
Government security agencies are heaping praise upon Palantir and what its programs can do—essentially any data from any place can be analyzed to give the security agencies whatever they want to know. It can handle both static databases and dynamic databases (those that are updated frequently). The Palantir software, according to The Intercept, is “flexible and powerful enough to accommodate the requirements of any organization that needs to process large amounts of both personal and abstract data.”
Despite all this, the report says that Palantir still presents a problem of over-analysis—analysts can get “overwhelmed by the scale of their task.”
The Intercept report on Palantir puts this in the context of the world today: “Donald Trump has inherited the most powerful machine for spying ever devised.” The spying technology that Palantir has developed is now in the hands of the fascist Trump/Pence regime.
During the Obama administration, privacy rights were trampled over. Edward Snowden revealed how the U.S. government spies on every person in the U.S. and almost everyone around the world. Now we have a fascist regime led by Trump and Pence. This means we can expect a qualitative leap in the spying and how it will be used, and Palantir has given them the ability to make that leap.
The new, updated Call to Action from Refuse Fascism states: “What is crucial to understand is that once in power fascism eliminates traditional democratic rights.” This will mean more than just massive surveillance on all those Trump sees as his enemies both inside and outside the country. It will mean that the fascist Trump/Pence regime will use that surveillance to go after people and organizations that are fighting and opposing it.
Revolution has previously reported on the U.S. government’s spying on people in this country and around the world. (See “Five Points of Orientation On the Revelations of Government Surveillance“; “High Stakes in the Apple vs. FBI Face-off”; and “The ‘USA Freedom Act’: Freedom to Spy and Suppress.”) I encourage readers to go back and read these articles that were written during the Obama administration and then think about what is said in the Call to Action concerning the fascist Trump/Pence regime.
What was said in the “USA Freedom Act” article holds true today:
Here’s the real situation: Those who rule this country create all kinds of enemies around the world and within their borders. They justify their massive spying apparatus as aimed at “terrorists,” but the scope and nature of that setup makes it clear to anyone who looks at it with open eyes that it is about spying on everyone and suppressing every kind of opposition to its epidemic of police murder, its wars for empire, its oppression of women, its environmental destruction, its persecution of immigrants, and suppressing legitimate revolutionary struggle.
And we should now add to that list, anyone and any organization that opposes the fascist Trump/Pence regime and the programs that it is implementing. Again, from that article:
Massive government spying is not the result of a security apparatus out of control. It is not the product of a “national security state” detached from the essence of this system, as some critics—including some who have done invaluable exposure—argue. This massive government spying is inherent in ruling over a world of injustice, exploitation, and oppression, and contending with rival powers to do that.
The government may have this “powerful machine for spying,” but on the other hand there are tens of millions of people who hate this regime and what it stands for. If these tens of millions act on what they hate, “together outside the normal channels,” they have the potential to stop this spying machine and those who control it.
Massive government spying needs to STOP!
The fascist Trump/Pence regime needs to be STOPPED and DRIVEN OUT!
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