To carry out its raids on undocumented immigrant families, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will soon get a helping hand from one of President Donald Trump’s rare allies in the tech industry, Palantir Technologies Inc. co-founder and chairman Peter Thiel.
Palantir won a $41.6 million contract to provide ICE with a surveillance system that identifies targeted individuals’ schools, family members, friends, employers, documentation history, communications, criminal records and work and home addresses, which ICE was slated to begin using in September, the Intercept reported Thursday. Known as Investigative Case Management, the technology will allow ICE agents to mine a massive pool of data from the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, among others, according to the intelligence news site, which conducted an analysis of the product’s funding documents.
Palantir’s relationship with the U.S. government has not been limited to ICE. The Palo Alto, California-based data analytics company has aided the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programs, was funded early on by the Central Intelligence Agency and won a suit against the Pentagon for blocking it from bidding for a $206 billion Army contract.
Thiel, who also co-founded the online payment system PayPal Holdings Inc. and was among Facebook Inc.’s earliest investors, gained infamy over the summer of 2016 when he funded a privacy invasion lawsuit by Terry Bollea, also known as Hulk Hogan, against the online tabloid Gawker, which had publicly outed Thiel as gay in 2007, forcing the site to close down.
A longtime Trump supporter, Thiel served as a sort of bridge between the new president and Silicon Valley’s top executives, organizing a December meeting in Trump Tower that included Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg.
With the adoption of Palantir’s system, Thiel’s assistance will go beyond Silicon Valley diplomacy. Already, the agency has “arrested more than 680 individuals who pose a threat to public safety, border security or the integrity of our nation’s immigration system,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a Feb. 13 statement.