Scholars Tell UC Berkeley: Cut Ties with Palantir

 
May 29th, 2019

If you are an academic and would like to add your name to this letter, please sign here.

 

On May 30-31, 2019, Berkeley Law will convene the 2019 Annual Privacy Law Scholars Conference (PLSC) in Berkeley, California. [1] A community of leading privacy scholars from around the world will present new work and interrogate critical questions at the intersection of technology and law. Given the importance of this work and this convening, we are troubled to see Palantir listed as a PLSC sponsor.

 

Palantir specializes in big data analytics. It sells technologies for tracking, profiling, and prediction to military and law enforcement agencies across the country. [2] Human rights’ advocates have raised concerns over the deployment of Palantir’s systems. [3] The company also has multiple contracts to provide the tech that allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify, track, and target immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers [4] for deportation. And recent reports show that Palantir’s case management systems are used to harass and even arrest family members of children crossing the border. [5]

 

In short, Palantir’s business involves building technologies that support federal immigration enforcement policies [6] to profile and deport [7] immigrants, detain children, [8] prosecute families, and conduct surveillance on low-income communities that suffer disparate impacts of policing. [9] At the same time, Palantir is waging a public relations campaign [10] which continually minimizes the company’s role in policing and immigration enforcement. [11]

 

We appreciate that the PLSC planning committee released a sponsorship agreement policy, and we know that corporate sponsorships present complex questions that may not be easily resolved. We also understand the need to secure funding. PLSC’s policy makes clear that sponsors don’t influence the programming or content. But even without direct influence, we are deeply concerned that Palantir’s sponsorship of a leading academic conference on privacy helps the company polish its image, and thus undermines efforts to resist militarized surveillance against migrants and marginalized communities.  

 

We believe that the work being done by the PLSC is urgent and important. Palantir’s extensive involvement in military [12] and policing [13] contracts is well documented, as is their role in enabling Trump’s family separation policy. We hope that the PLSC community will take the lead and refuse affiliation with a company that builds programs and tech tools to enable surveillance and profiling of immigrants and communities that already face disparate impacts of racial profiling and marginalization.

We, the undersigned scholars, call on the convening committee and Berkeley Law to drop Palantir as a PLSC sponsor.

 

Signed:

 

Naomi Klein, Rutgers University

Simone Browne, University of Texas at Austin

Meredith Whittaker, AI Now Institute NYU

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Princeton University

Terry Winograd, Stanford University

Lucy Suchman, Lancaster University

Annie Lai, University of California Irvine School of Law

Lilly Irani. University of California San Diego

Douglas Rushkoff, Queens College, CUNY

Kendra Albert, Harvard Law School

Allie Robbins, CUNY School of Law

Mary Marsh Zulack, Columbia University School of Law

David Palumbo-Liu, Stanford University

Eric Popkin, Colorado College

William Quigley, Loyola University New Orleans

Amy Herzog, Queens College, CUNY

Shawn Marie Boyne, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Eric Blumenson, Suffolk University Law School

Andrea J. Boyack, Washburn University School of Law

Athena Mutua, University at Buffalo Law School

Stephen Arons, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Sally Frank, Drake University

Lucy Ann Williams, Northeastern University School of Law

Karl Klare, Northeastern University

Zygmunt Jan Broel Plater, Boston College

Bill Ong Hing, University of San Francisco

Connie de la Vega, University of San Francisco

Tim Iglesias, University of San Francisco

Khalid Kadir, University of California Berkeley

Vincent M Bonventre, Albany Law School

James Cavallaro, Stanford Law School

Elana Zilberg, University of California San Diego

Robert S Westman, University of California San Diego

Anita Chan, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Christina Dunbar-Hester, University of Southern California

Ashwin Mathew, University of California Berkeley

Volker Wulf, University of Siegen

Mark Graham, University of Oxford

Lina Dencik, Cardiff University

Sarah Rogerson, Albany Law School

Ricardo Dominguez, University of California San Diego

Peter Asaro, The New School

Richard Maxwell, Queens College, CUNY

Carlin Meyer, New York Law School

Safiya U. Noble, University of California Los Angeles

Mary Lynch, Albany Law School

Kelly Gates, University of California San Diego

Hemanth Gundavaram, Northeastern University School of Law

Barbara Ann Bush, University of San Diego

Michael Veale, University College London

Paloma Checa-Gismero, University of California San Diego

Martha Kenney, San Francisco State University

Ned Randolph, University of California San Diego

Joseph Rosenberg, CUNY School of Law

Simeon Man, University of California San Diego

Gillian Hart, University of California Berkeley

Caren Kaplan, University of California Davis

Helen H. Kang, Golden Gate University School of Law

Katie Walkiewicz,University of California San Diego

Saiba Varma, University of California San Diego

Daniel Greene, University of Maryland

Jonathon Paden, University of California San Diego

Nick Srnicek, King’s College London

Steven Bender, Seattle University School of Law

Christopher Kelty, University of California Los Angeles

Kavita Philip, University of California Irvine

Marc-Tizoc González, Berkeley Law Class of ‘05, St. Thomas University

Aurélien Tabard, Université de Lyon

Linnet Taylor, Tilburg University

Andrew Clement, University of Toronto

Alison Black, University of California San Diego

Molly Hankwitz, SJSU

M Isabel Medina, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law

Martha Lampland, University of California San Diego

Stephen Lee, University of California Irvine

Song Richardson, University of California Irvine Law

Charles Lawrence, University of Hawaii Manoa

Nicole Grove, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Kenneth Lawson, University of Hawaii

Gilbert Paul Carrasco, Willamette University

Linda Hamilton Krieger, University of Hawaii

James Gray Pope, Rutgers University

Lily Chumley, New York University

Benjamin Davis, University of Toledo College of Law

Wendy Matsumura, University of California San Diego

Paul Duguid, University of California Berkeley

Lokman Tsui, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

William J. Woodward, Jr., Temple University

Gunnar Stevens , University of Siegen

Sarah T. Roberts, University of California Los Angeles

Dr Jamie Woodcock, University of Oxford

David Murakami Wood, Queen’s University

Cori Hayden, University of California Berkeley

Angelica Chazaro, University of Washington

Dean Spade, Seattle University

Chandan Reddy, University of Washington

Finn Brunton, New York University

Zahr Said, University of Washington

  1. Aneesh, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Fran Quigley, Indiana University McKinney School of Law

Elizabeth Keyes, University of Baltimore School of Law

Jennifer Terry, University of California Irvine

Tobias Smith, University of California Davis

Laura Kang, University of California Irvine

Inderpal Grewal, Yale University

Alvaro Bedoya, Georgetown Law

Jill Campbell, U. C. Berkeley B.A. ’79, Yale University

Dr James F Morrison, University of Florida

John Cooper, Bucknell University

Adriana Garriga-López , Kalamazoo College

Mneesha Gellman, Emerson College

Laura Moy, Georgetown Law

Peter L. Markowitz, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Alina Das, NYU Law School

Catherine M Grosso, Michigan State University College of Law

Jacqueline Brown Scott, University of San Francisco

Mark Sanders, UNC Charlotte

Rev. Dr. Antonio Aja    McCormick Theological Seminary

Rebecca Kunkel, Rutgers Law School

Evan Light    Glendon, York University

Alexander Stine, San Francisco State University

Holly Cooper, University of California Davis

Ameeth Vijay, University of California San Diego

Altha Cravey, UNC Chapel Hill

Haskell Taub, University of Missouri, Columbia

Catherine Liu, University of California Irvine

Clare Sandy, San Francisco State University

Amy C Thompson, University of Texas

Lorraine Halinka Malcoe, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Charles R. Stack, University of Illinois at Chicago

Gary Y Okihiro, Columbia University

José Gutierrez , Long Beach City College

Kalindi Vora    , University of California Davis

Lucas Hilderbrand, University of California Irvine

Joanna Reed, University of California Berkeley

Dorothy Kidd, University of San Francisco

Richard Cándida Smith, University of California Berkeley

Angela P. Harris, University of California Davis

Carlos Barón, San Francisco State University

Sarolta Cump, San Francisco State University

Fatima El-Tayeb, University of California San Diego

 

Students and Researchers

 

Travis Chamberlain, University of California San Diego

Dorothy Howard, University of California San Diego

Michael Katell, University of Washington

Niels ten Oever, University of Amsterdam

Os Keyes, University of Washington

Shoghig Halajian, University of California San Diego

Rachel Fox, University of California San Diego

Marion Daniels, University of California San Diego

Viona Deconinck, University of California San Diego

Esther Choi, University of California San Diego

Işık Kaya, University of California San Diego

Kirstyn Hom, University of California San Diego

Sarah Fox, University of California Berkeley

Pei-hsuan Wu, University of San Francisco

Juan José Rojo, University of California San Diego

Kerry Keith, University of California San Diego

Nick Merrill, University of California Berkeley

Luke Stark, Microsoft Research Montreal

Lindsay Weinberg, Purdue University

Aaron Shapiro, New York University

Sarah Arveson, Yale University

Alison M Veintimilla, Brown University

Fenna M Krienen, Harvard Medical School

Mauna Dasari, University of Notre Dame; UC Berkeley Alumna ’12

Mark Verstraete,NYU

Ashley Gorham, University of Pennsylvania, NYU

Benjamin Radcliffe, University of Connecticut

Noura Howell, University of California, Berkeley

Molly Hart, University of California Berkeley

Nina Dewi Horstmann, Stanford University

Ariel Weingarten, University of California San Diego

Brynn Strader, University of Washington

Sophie Fajardo, University of Chicago

Alein Haro, University of California Berkeley

Crystal Zhang, Columbia University

Emilio Araujo, Pomona College

Abraham Shim, Yale University

Alby Chavez, North Carolina Agriclutural and Technical State University

Heather Akbarzadeh, University of California Davis

Eric Kernfeld, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Seda Gurses, Delft University of Technology

 

Institutions are listed for identification purposes only and do not reflect the position of the institution.

 

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[1] Annual Privacy Law Scholars Conference, Berkeley Law. https://www.law.berkeley.edu/research/bclt/bcltevents/2019annual-privacy-law-scholars-conference/.

[2] Peter Waldman, Lizette Chapman, and Jordan Robertson, “Palantir Knows Everything About You,” Bloomberg Business Week (April 19, 2018), https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2018-palantir-peter-thiel/.

[3] April Glaser and Will Oremus, “ Critics Warn of Trusting Palantir to Work with the United Nations,” Slate, (Feb. 20, 2019), https://slate.com/technology/2019/02/critics-warn-of-trusting-palantir-to-work-with-the-united-nations.html. Emily Birnbaum, “Tech Activists Protest Palantir’s Work with ICE,” The Hill (May 13, 2019), https://thehill.com/policy/technology/443418-tech-activists-protest-palantirs-work-with-ice. Sue Dremann, “Protesters Demand Palantir end ICE contract,” Palo Alto Weekly (July 31, 2018), https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2018/07/31/protesters-demand-palantir-end-ice-contracts.

[4] A report commissioned by Mijente, Immigrant Defense Project and National Immigration Project of the NLG to research contracts by technology companies related to immigration enforcement technologies. “Who’s Behind ICE? The Tech and Data Companies Fueling Deportations,” Empower LLC, Mijente, IDP, NIPNLG (October 2018), p. 31-35, 38, 43-45. https://mijente.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/WHO’S-BEHIND-ICE_-The-Tech-and-Data-Companies-Fueling-Deportations_v3-.pdf. Manish Singh, Palantir’s Software Was Used for Deportation,” TechCrunch (May 2019), https://techcrunch.com/2019/05/03/palantirs-software-was-used-for-deportations-documents-show/.

[5] April Glaser, “Palantir Said It Had Nothing to Do With ICE Deportations. New Documents Seem to Tell a Different Story,” Slate, (May 2, 2019), https://slate.com/technology/2019/05/documents-reveal-palantir-software-is-used-for-ice-deportations.html.

[6] Spencer Woodman, “Palantir Provides the Engine for Trump’s Deportation Machine, The Intercept (Mar. 2, 2017), https://theintercept.com/2017/03/02/palantir-provides-the-engine-for-donald-trumps-deportation-machine/

[7]  Karen Hao, “Amazon is the invisible backbone behind ICE’s immigration crackdown,” MIT Technology Review (Oct. 22, 2018), https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612335/amazon-is-the-invisible-backbone-behind-ices-immigration-crackdown/.

[8] Id. at 5.

[9] Mark Harris, “If you drive in Los Angeles, the cops can track your every move,” Wired.com (Nov. 13,, 2018), https://www.wired.com/story/drive-los-angeles-police-track-every-move/.

[10] Kate Fazzini, Peter Thiel’s stealth start-up Palantir has unlocked a new opportunity to sell to the US military as revenue tops $1 billion, CNBC.com, (May 16, 2019), https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/15/palantir-unlocks-a-new-opportunity-to-sell-to-us-military-ahead-of-ipo.html.

[11] New York Times Dealbook, Business and Policy, Palantir renews a border security contract, (Dec. 11, 2018), “https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/11/business/dealbook/investor-bias-discrimination.html.

[12] Shane Harris, Palantir wins competition to build Army intelligence system, Washington Post (Mar. 26, 2019), https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/palantir-wins-competition-to-build-army-intelligence-system/2019/03/26/c6d62bf0-3927-11e9-aaae-69364b2ed137_story.html?utm_term=.786997626ab0

[13] Shane Harris, How Peter Thiel’s Secretive Data Company Pushed into Policing, Wired.com, (Aug. 9, 2017), https://www.wired.com/story/how-peter-thiels-secretive-data-company-pushed-into-policing/.