Palantir listing may shine light on secretive Big Data firm

Palantir listing may shine light on secretive Big Data firm
Peter Thiel, PayPal founder-turned-venture-capitalist. (AFP)
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Updated 21 September 2020

Palantir listing may shine light on secretive Big Data firm

Palantir listing may shine light on secretive Big Data firm
  • Palantir’s filing suggests a valuation of some $10 billion, down from a private value as high as $25 billion, according to Renaissance Capital

WASHINGTON: Perhaps the most secretive firm to emerge from Silicon Valley, Palantir Technologies is set for a stock market debut this month that may shed light on the Big Data firm specializing in law enforcement and national security.

Palantir platform has been used in the controversial practice of “predictive policing” to help law enforcement, detect medical insurance fraud and fight the coronavirus pandemic.

While Palantir’s data practices and algorithms are secret, the company claims it follows a road map which is, if anything, more ethical than its tech sector rivals.

It moved its headquarters to Denver this year, partly in an effort to set itself apart from its Silicon Valley rivals.

“Our company was founded in Silicon Valley. But we seem to share fewer and fewer of the technology sector’s values and commitments,” Palantir says in its prospectus. “From the start, we have repeatedly turned down opportunities to sell, collect or mine data.”

Palantir is opting for a direct listing, expected on Sept. 29. This will not raise capital but will allow shares to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Palantir’s filing suggests a valuation of some $10 billion, down from a private value as high as $25 billion, according to Renaissance Capital.

The company posted a loss of $580 million last year on revenue of $743 million. But it sees prospects improving as it offers solutions to what it calls “fractured health care systems, erosions of data privacy, strained criminal justice systems and outmoded ways of fighting wars,” its regulatory filing says.

Palantir’s biggest shareholder is Peter Thiel, an early Facebook investor and one of the rare tech executives who backed Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016.

“We are in a deadly race between politics and technology,” Thiel wrote in a 2009 essay for the libertarian Cato Institute.

Activists argue that Palantir’s technology — which scoops up financial records, social media posts, call records and internet records — enables unprecedented opportunities for mass surveillance with little oversight on privacy and fundamental rights.

Human rights activists have staged protests against Palantir after US agencies used its technology to hunt down illegal immigrants in the United States.

The immigration rights activist group Mijente claims Palantir technology is used in operations to track and arrest thousands of people “just for being undocumented.”

Palantir is a major player in “predictive policing,” a technology which critics say can amplify bias in law enforcement.

A 2017 research paper by University of Texas sociologist Sarah Brayne found the Palantir platform can connect seemingly unrelated bits of data for investigators, but can also lead to “a proliferation of data from police” collected without a warrant.

Palantir does not apologize for its work in national security and law enforcement.

Palantir points out that it created a privacy and civil liberties board in 2012, ahead of most tech rivals. It also rejects working with China as “inconsistent with our culture and mission.”


American Chamber of Commerce: Why Biden will be business as usual for US-KSA economic ties

American Chamber of Commerce: Why Biden will be business as usual for US-KSA economic ties
Updated 19 January 2021

American Chamber of Commerce: Why Biden will be business as usual for US-KSA economic ties

American Chamber of Commerce: Why Biden will be business as usual for US-KSA economic ties
  • New US leader may adopt more pragmatic approach, but trade relations will remain strong

JEDDAH: While some analysts are predicting a change in Saudi-US relations following Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, the new chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia said he believes the change in the White House will not have any significant impact on relations between the two allies.

“The US has been a partner of Saudi Arabia since the 1940s and I think that goes very deep. We think that the Biden administration and presidential election victory will usher in new foreign policy changes. That’s a given when there’s any change in administration and especially in party,” Tarik Solomon, chairman of AmChamKSA, told Arab News.

AmCham recently launched its first chamber in Saudi Arabia. It is part of the United States Chamber of Commerce umbrella that has hundreds of branches around the world. In the region, there are already branches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as well as in Egypt and Lebanon.

The US and Saudi Arabia enjoy a robust economic relationship. According to the US Department of State, the US is Saudi Arabia’s second-largest trading partner, while Saudi Arabia is one of the US’ largest trading partners in the Middle East and its third-leading source of imported oil.

Solomon said he expects a different communication style when it comes to the US-Saudi relationship going forward. “We will likely see a return to standard official communication procedures under Biden, rather than the decree by tweet policy of Trump,” he said.

However, the US-Saudi relationship is longstanding and is characterized by its pragmatism, Solomon said.

“Biden may request some concessions and will probably put stronger conditions on support. However, when you look at trade and investment, we’re committed to working tirelessly to elevate this relationship,” he added.

According to Solomon, AmCham’s aim is to strive for increased cooperation between the two countries in terms of trade and investment, to diversify the Saudi economy away from a dependence on hydrocarbons and to help raise the Kingdom’s profile in the US.

In 2019, Saudi Arabia was the US’ 27th-largest goods and service market, with a total value of $39 billion, focusing on military, energy, aluminum, fertilizers and petrochemicals.

“Those are extremely high figures when you look at, for example, military vehicles — that’s $2 billion on its own,” said Solomon. “There’s a lot of trade going on between the KSA and US and there’s a lot of room for growth.”

However, the chairman hopes to push more US companies into new sectors that have high potential and are pillars of the Saudi government’s Visions 2030 goals. Of the promising investment sectors in the Kingdom, Solomon highlighted manufacturing, tourism, entertainment, sports and technology.

“What we are looking at right now is the manufacturing sector. This is where work towards localizing renewable energy and industrial equipment is growing. We’re looking at sports, tourism and leisure,” said Solomon.

In addition to manufacturing, the technology sector is another promising industry with high potential, but Solomon said that there is a slight lag in US investment in technology and the digital economy, which he wants to push forward while it remains a greenfield space in the country, especially as the government increases investment in the sector.

Solomon highlighted the significance of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the US under the Trump Administration. “Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signed a significant amount of memorandums of understanding between the Saudi Arabian government and US entities, and some of those included Aramco and SABIC. We see this as an opening to new opportunities for US investment in a market that was traditionally heavily protected.”

Solomon believes that strategic dialogue in the trade and investment field will be the key to success and enhancing investment opportunities between the two countries.

“We need to remember what kind of a friend Saudi Arabia is and that they’ve always been there for us. We’ve always had a strong relationship,” he said. “Saudi Arabia has choices. Our goal is to be its first choice as a trusted partner.”