Palantir is an analytics company Trump’s ally, Peter Thiel, co-founded. It supports the US Department of Health and Human Services in building a tool to track the spread of COVID-19.
The tool, reportedly called HHS Protect Now, has already been up and running since April 10th. It helps officials compile reports on the spread of COVID-19 by collecting data from state and local governments. It also collects data from healthcare institutions and colleges.
At this point, it’s still unclear what exactly this data is, where it comes from, or how it’s being used. It’s also unclear if the analytics company is the sole technology provider of the tool.
How does HHS Protect Now work?
The HHS Protect Now platform, unveiling later this week, operates by pulling data from governments. These include the federal government, state and local governments, healthcare facilities, and colleges. It aims to help administration officials determine how to “mitigate and prevent the spread” of the coronavirus.
HHS said it has 187 data sets integrated into the platform. It has inputs that include hospital capacity and inventories as well as supply chain data from the government and industry. Diagnostic and geographic testing data and demographic statistics are also part of theses inputs.
In addition, state policy actions and coronavirus and flu-like emergency department data. Also, the HHS was relying on private sector partner contributions of data.
They use the data aggregated to paint a picture for the Task Force, state and local leaders. This is to show the impact of their strategic decisions, according to the analytics company’s spokesperson.
Supposing there are a number of cases concentrated at a hospital next to an airport and a mass transit stop. They can build a predictive model using a transmission chain. This is to predict how quickly the disease will spread taking into account these factors, the spokesperson added.
Analytics Company’s Secret Work with Governments and Police
Palantir is known best for its surveillance, predictive, and analytic work with the US government, state and local law enforcement. It also provides services to the private sector in areas like finance and healthcare.
It has provided profiling tools to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, making it controversial. Moreover, it operates with extreme secrecy regarding the tools and data it provides to military operations, governments, and hedge funds.
Analytics company Palantir clandestinely provided predictive policing software to the city of New Orleans. The city only terminated the contract after six years operating in secrecy once news organizations unearthed the partnership. The news organizations have highlighted the privacy and civil rights concerns involved.
The name itself is a nod to the magical artifact in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Taking its name from the Elvish word for “all-seeing,” speaks to the company’s surveillance ambitions. It also speaks to Thiel’s willingness to align them with political causes he supports.
It appears that Thiel’s connections to Trump, the infamous investor, is a well-known conservative in liberal-leaning Silicon Valley. He supported Trump’s election in 2016. This may have helped influence analytics company Palantir’s involvement with HHS Protect Now.
Thiel has also pledged to support the U.S. president’s reelection, and he has reportedly used his influence at Facebook. He was Facebook’s first angel investor and remains on its board of directors. This is to help Trump with regard to oversight and moderation of political ads.