AOC called for investigation on Palantir before it went public

Her Sept. 17 letter to the SEC requested that the surveillance company disclose details about its government ties and data security protections.

Alfred Ng Senior Reporter / CNET News
Alfred Ng was a senior reporter for CNET News. He was raised in Brooklyn and previously worked on the New York Daily News's social media and breaking news teams.
Alfred Ng
2 min read

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sent a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Sept. 17 requesting an investigation on Palantir.

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Two lawmakers called on the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate Palantir before it could make a public listing -- which the surveillance company did on Wednesday

In the letter, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, and Rep. Jesús G. Garcia, a Democrat from Illinois, pointed at multiple concerns surrounding Palantir, a company chaired by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. 

The company works with government agencies and police departments across the US and in countries like Qatar, providing surveillance technology and data analytics to track and follow people. A BuzzFeed News report on Tuesday found that the Los Angeles Police Department had used Palantir for more than a decade to search for people by physical features including their scars and tattoos. 

Civil rights groups like Mijente have also argued against Palantir's contracts with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, which uses the technology to coordinate arrests on immigrants. 

"Palantir's numerous transparency and governance issues have been flying completely under the radar as they launch their public offering," Jacinta Gonzalez, a senior campaign organizer at Mijente, said in a statement. "We're glad Representatives Ocasio-Cortez and Garcia tasked the SEC with investigating and are eager to find out why the agency has not done so."

Palantir and the SEC didn't respond to a request for comment. 

Watch this: Prepare for a 'new national surveillance system' in order to wipe out COVID-19

The letter sent on Sept. 17 called for the SEC to investigate Palantir over its funding from the CIA, its contracts with the Qatar government, its investors and its data protections before it's allowed to go public. 

The letter was shared with reporters on Wednesday, just hours before Palantir made a public listing.

The lawmakers asked for Palantir to disclose information about In-Q-Tel's stake in the company. In-Q-Tel is the CIA's venture capital branch, and has invested in several tech companies that help with surveillance. 

Ocasio-Cortez and Garcia also raised concerns with Palantir's cybersecurity standards with health data it's obtaining through a contract with the US Department of Health and Human Services and the UK's National Health Service. 

In August, nearly three dozen health experts warned that the Trump administration's coronavirus database, which Palantir is contracted to work on, could be abused because it's being managed by a private company rather than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

"Palantir must provide greater transparency to potential investors about the data protections or lack thereof associated with its government contracts, and further information about the US and non-US government entities for which it is working on data related to the COVID-19 crisis," Cortez and Garcia wrote in the letter. 

You can read the full letter here.