Palantir Extends US Defense Contract That Prompted Protest at Google

The contract, worth $229 million, is an extension of an image recognition tech initiative that Google abandoned.

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Palantir Technologies, a data analytics company that's drawn criticism over tech that's used for surveillance, has extended its contracts with the US government, the company announced Thursday.

The Defense Department awarded Palantir a contract worth $229 million over one year to provide artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to the Special Forces, the Joint Staff and all branches of the US armed services, the company said Thursday.

Palantir, co-founded by Peter Thiel, who also co-founded PayPal, 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. The company describes its products as helping to organize vast amounts of information, allowing customers to spot trends and other important information that's otherwise hard to find. 

But tech companies' connections to the government have raised concerns about the dangers of government surveillance and of various military programs. Palantir's new contract is an extension of a program previously known as Project Maven, a contract for image recognition tech that prompted employees at Google and Microsoft to protest their companies' work with the military, arguing that the workers didn't agree to have their labors turned into tools of war. Google later abandoned its work on the project.

Earlier in the week, Palantir announced it had renewed a contract with the Department of Homeland Security to support the department's Investigative Case Management software, which is used in investigations leading to the prosecution of suspects. The five-year contract is worth $95.9 million, Palantir said in a statement.

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

Palantir went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2020, the same year it relocated its headquarters to Denver from Palo Alto, California. Palantir's stock finished up 14 cents to $8.08 on Thursday but is down more than 66% in the past 12 months.