Palantir: International Tech Despot

This is the first in two articles investigating US tech company, Palantir. Part two looks at how the company got a foothold in the NHS during Covid and its history in the UK before that.

In this increasingly technological and digitalised industrial age, capitalists and corporations have new spaces and tools to extract, dominate and colonise. It’s hard to imagine a world without the internet or mobile phones but these things have only taken off in the last three decades. Now, big tech and big data are two key areas driving modern capitalism. And some people are making a lot of money.

Palantir is one of the big tech giants worth keeping an eye on. The company has been cashing in on big data and analytics for state surveillance at home and at the borders, it has been developing technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) for police departments and weapons of war. It’s been testing out its tech in Ukraine and on Gaza. The behemoth has also been working in healthcare around the world, getting controversial emergency contacts during the pandemic, and more recently it won a massive contract with NHS England to lead on running the Federated Data Platform (FDP). This company connects Donald Trump, Dominic Cummings, Benjamin Netanyahu and Wikileaks cables, read on to find out how.

Our research found:

    • Palantir cut its teeth with grants from the CIA and US intelligence agencies.
    • Much of Palantir’s work uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology for surveillance, weapons and warfare for the West and its allies.
    • Palantir has an office in Israel and has officially partnered with the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) to support the ongoing war on Gaza through the use of its technology.
    • The company’s tech is used in both predictive policing apps and border surveillance in the US and across Europe


Palantir Technologies Inc. is a US spy technology company headquartered in Denver, Colorado. According to its most recent annual report, in 2022 61% of its revenue comes from the US, 12% from the UK and 27% globally. It’s well known in the US for controversial work with the CIA, military, border forces, the police, and donations to Trump in 2016 – which helped him get into power. Less familiar, however, is its work in Israel and for claiming the company’s tech gives Ukraine the upper hand in the fight against Russia. It’s not just using its high-class tech for health data; it’s also being used to develop weapons of war.

The company is headed by two billionaires; Trump campaign donor, Peter Thiel and neo-liberal, eccentric, Alex Karp. They co-founded Palantir in 2003 to create software for government departments and Western defence and intelligence agencies. Palantir’s software platforms, AI technology and big data analytics have enabled neoliberal governments and their allies to more effectively use huge amounts of complex data. Palantir says it helps its customers find ‘hidden’ patterns and make sense of data they already have. It has used this expertise, in its own words, to track down terrorists, prevent crimes and allegedly to ‘change the world for the better’. It has been doing this in the US by working with the CIA, the FBI, the Marine Corps, Homeland Security, Immigration agencies, the police and other national defence and intelligence agencies.

Palantir found its feet with an investment from In-Q-Telan arm of the CIA set up to fast-track the funding of technologies that could support intelligence agencies. Palantir has a track record of enabling governments, police and defence agencies to spy on people and is so infamous that its name popped up in 2011 Wikileaks cables. The plot thickens and Thiel has recently been reported to have been an FBI informant. Pretty interesting for a company that claims it was ”founded on the conviction that it’s essential to preserve fundamental principles of privacy and civil liberties while using data”.

Lord of the Rings fans might have already clocked it, but Palantir’s name comes from the magical crystal balls in Tolkien's epic that enable the user to see the past and into different parts of the world. The tech giant works in health, defence, space and fossil fuels, primarily selling an operating system called Apollo which runs its two data-driven software platforms (Gotham and Foundry). Palantir has been publicly traded since 2020 to shareholder's delight, and profits.


Gotham is the software used broadly across governments, global defence, and intelligence agencies. The software helps turn massive amounts of data into understandable and usable information and enables the user to see deep hidden connections that a human might miss. The AI operating system does this in near real-time. According to Palantir’s deployment strategist, the company is using this software to see if it can ‘deter the next great war’. More information on Gotham and how it’s been used by ICE for deportations in the US below.


Foundry is the software used for NHS England contracts and the Covid-19 Data Store. It will also be the operating system for the FDP.

The software works with big amounts of data (i.e. patient’s medical records, case notes and other information held by the NHS), pulls it together into one place and makes it possible to understand as a whole. It organises the information in a way that helps the user see the whole picture and make strategic decisions. It's used in all commercial work and some government contracts.


Apollo is the name of the operating system that enables the secure use of Palantir's systems in any environment, private or public. This platform acts as the glue that holds it all together, making sure that the other systems can run continuously where other company’s products may have to pause for updates or to change working environments.  Apollo manages and allegedly makes sure that Gotham and Foundry are safely used.


As you might expect of a shady organisation created to support the technological development of state defence and surveillance tools, the most prominent people are highly-politically connected and super-rich. Co-founders Thiel (chair) and Karp (CEO) are both outspoken, controversial, billionaire, investment capitalists.

Karp has Palantir’s largest percentage of voting rights (12.5%) according to share ownership His net worth is currently calculated at over $2bn with benefits including: use of a corporate aircraft, corporate housing and a life-long personal CEO security outfit. Thiel, who is worth $6.4b (June 23), is the 2nd most powerful with 11.5% of the voting rights at the company. Coming in third is Stephen Cohen, who owns 3.1% of the votes according to shares.

Alex Karp pictured at the World Economic Forum

Alex Karp, Flickr, World Economic Forum

Karp and Thiel have lots in common and have known each other for years. They went to Stanford together, they both established venture capitalist firms (Caedmon Group and Thiel Capital LLC respectively) and they both appear on the steering committee of Bilderberg Group meetings. The Bilderberg Group is a secretive alliance of Western elites who meet once a year to discuss different topics. Currently, the president of the World Economic Forum, and the CEOs of mass media corporations, Microsoft, Ryanair and Google accompany Karp and Thiel on the committee. One of the aims of this group, allegedly, is to create a common global policy.

Karp’s elite credentials don’t stop there and we find him on the boards of mass media corporations, Axel Springer (the media company responsible for two of Germany’s top newspapers, Bild and Die Welt) and the UK’s Economist.

Karp also seems to thrive on controversy. From publicly shaming his Silicon Valley peers as unpatriotic losers to vocally supporting Israel as it bombs Gaza. He has been seen meeting with Ukrainian military leaders and reporting to potential customers and news reporters that the AI revolution to come is being proven on the battlefield. Karp can often be found commenting ideologically on Western, specifically US, supremacy, fighting wars against ‘evil’ and discussing how “software plus heroism can really slay the giant’’.

Thiel and Karp are persistent political donors, seemingly flip-flopping funds without clear party political allegiance. Karp donated $36.5k (£28.)  in 2023 to the Democrat’s election campaign in North America plus another $35.5k (£27.8k) in 2020 on behalf of Palantir. He donated $20k (£15.7k) to the Republicans back in 2016 during Trump’s election campaign. A few months later, Karp’s colleague and quieter co-founder, Cohen donated $10k (£7.8k) to Trump’s drive. Thiel also gave Trump a helping hand in 2016 and he’s now donating to Blake Masters, an anti-abortion, anti-contraception, Trump backed, Republican.  These donations came through his venture capitalist firm, Thiel Capital LLC. Masters co-wrote a book with Thiel and worked with him to back Trump in 2016. In 2023 alone, there were over 100 donations by Palantir staff to political parties, candidates and campaigns in the States and Palantir is one of the top donors to Mike Rogers, a Republican who is chair of the Armed Services Committee which oversees the US defence budget. Closer to home in the UK, Palantir has been a client of Fleetwood Strategy (FS) lobbyists since mid-2021. FS was co-founded at the start of the pandemic by Boris Johnson’s election campaign guru, Isaac Levido. Levido is seen by some as a potential key to getting the Tories back into power in the next election. Guess it pays to get ahead in politics.

The worlds of big corporations and party politics are never too far apart when it comes to these guys. Before Palantir, Thiel co-founded PayPal and was a director and employee of Meta which runs Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. He is an avid investor and has money in media, biotech, health tech, Airbnb, Spotify and Postmates (owned by Uber), to name a few. He is involved in several private equity and venture capitalist companies and co-founded The Founders Fund (TFF), discussed in more detail below.

Thiel co-founded TFF, an investment corporation that pours money into technologies and industries that work to ‘improve’ defence, weapons and warfare using data, AI and tech. One of its biggest projects is Anduril Industries Inc, an arms and AI tech company big in defence. Thiel owns more than 10% of Anduril. In 2021 it was subcontracted by Palantir for $3.2m (£2.5m) related to their work with the US government increasing to $4.15m (£3.2m) in 2022.

So, two patriotic, super-rich American men control the majority of one of the biggest spyware firms in the world. And profits are soaring. Financial databases show that the share equity at Palantir moved from negative in 2018 to over $2.5bn (£1.9bn) by 2022. total revenue, according to databases, for 2023 is $2.1bn (£1.6bn) which has doubled from $1bn (£785m)  in 2020. Gross profit for 2023 is nearly $1.7bn (£1.3bn), this has more than doubled since 2020 when it was $740m (£581m). The two largest corporate shareholders are none other than capitalist investment giants Vanguard (with 8.6%) and BlackRock (with 4.8%). Both received the top two places on a list of corporate investors that are running and destroying our world in a previous Corporate Watch report.

Big capitalist investment bro, Joseph “Joe” Lonsdale is another Palantir co-founder. He left in 2009 but is still an investor and advisor in the company. He appeared on a Forbes rich list in 2016 where they calculated his wealth at $425m (£333m) at the age of 34. Like Thiel, he had a short stint at PayPal and following in the footsteps of Karp he is outspoken about his backing of Israel and the war on Gaza. Lonsdale is managing partner at 8VC, a venture capitalist firm that he founded which invests heavily in defence, government and…health. It seems many savvy investment giants know that there are big bucks to be made from war and health.

Tech-led War Profiteers

Palantir is now one of the largest companies on the US stock exchange, reporting year-on-year financial growth. The company claims it’s their AI that is giving them the boost and said they expect their government contracts to increase due to ‘geopolitical tension’. Some people’s death means other people’s profits.

We’re increasingly aware of the trillion-dollar profits of well-established arms companies and the devastation and death they cause. However, the mechanics of war have become increasingly more tech-driven. Newer companies like Palantir and Anduril are at the forefront of this and therefore able to fully exploit the geopolitical complicity of US-backed wars. It’s perhaps little surprise to see the company and its founders open support for the current wars in Palestine and Ukraine.


Palantir’s co-founders Lonsdale and Karp have been very vocal about both personal and company support for the Israeli state and the ongoing genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. Lonsdale told the media: “When we were building Palantir we actually learnt a lot from the Israelis. They’re quite good at what they do and one of my proudest moments was when Israel started working with Palantir. So Palantir helps Israel do a lot of things too”. He has also said, in relation to Israel and his work with Palantir that they ‘’are trying to keep the good guys armed and ahead”. Karp told the audience at his 2023 panel at the Reagan National Defense Forum that he knew of only three corporations that were publicly pro-Israel on Oct 7th, Palantir, Booz Allen and Anduril (Peter Thiel is a big investor). All three happen to be in the business of defence, intelligence and war profiteering. And all three companies were on the guest list of the annual US event.

Palantir has had an office in Tel Aviv since at least 2015 and has recently said it is expanding work there. In January 2024, the company reiterated support for Israel and held the first board meeting of the year in Tel Aviv. The company has strong ties to Israel and Karp said in an interview in December 2023: “We are very well known in Israel. Israel appreciates our product’’. They also took out a full page ‘Palantir stands with Israel’ ad in the New York Sunday Times, wrote a shareholder letter emphasising its backing and tweeted that “certain kinds of evil can only be fought with force” on Oct 12th.

Palantir’s products are currently being used by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), so there is no question about its complicity in the ongoing genocide in Gaza. Although specific details of the deal remain hazy, the company reported a mutual agreement to “harness Palantir’s advanced technology in support of war-related missions”. It’s on record that their technology improves the accuracy of weapons and war tech. However, the company’s connections to Israel don’t stop with its founders. Part two looks in more detail at the company’s UK Director, Sir Daniel Lincoln Bethlemhem, but it’s worth noting that he used to work as a high-ranking lawyer for the Israeli government under Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu.


Eran Witkon, former CTO for the Israeli Government has worked for Palantir for almost eight years, and specifically in Tel Aviv for over a year now. Witkon says part of his reason for working at the company is because they say they fight terrorism.

Thiel has his own direct links to Israel and he recently started investing in Israeli start-up, Carbyne, a tech defence company not unlike Palantir. Carbyne is co-owned by Ehud Barak, former Israeli Prime Minister. The late sex offender, Jeffery Epstein was a business partner to Barak and invested heavily in setting up this company.

The tech built by Palantir and used by US immigration (see below) has been linked to Cellebrite, an Israeli-founded company. The company used its phone-hacking software to support the Bahraini government in prosecuting and torturing activists. Several UK police forces also use Cellebrite’s phone hacking tech, and it will be selling its wares at the Official UK Government Global Security Event run by the Home Office.


Ukraine having the ‘edge’ it claims it needs to beat Russia is, in part, down to its use of Palantir’s technologies according to the company. Karp has been seen on panels and in meetings with Ukraine’s military leaders. The company is constantly talking about, and referring to, the importance of Ukraine as a battlefield where a lot of learning is happening. This is information Karp wants to import to America so it can build military and economic superiority over China.

Vice President Sankar recently spoke at the Reagan Defense Forum about tech in defence. He said ‘’We need to start thinking about software as a weapon system. The ideal commanders are in some sense, going to be product managers’’ He sees his company as one of the “founders” in the mold of those who led the US to victory in WWII and the Cold War.’’

The Supremacy of US Tech

‘’Our platforms serve as the central analytics system of a major law enforcement agency in northern Europe ‘’ (Palantir Annual Report 2023)

Palantir insists it was founded to support US and Western supremacy and that it built platforms to protect individual privacy and prevent people’s information from being used in the wrong way. But who are these individuals they claim to protect?

US Mexico Border Crossing - wikimedia. 

US Mexico Border Crossing – wikimedia. 

Immigration Agencies, Borders and Policing in the US

Campaigners in the US have frequently challenged Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policies of caging children, separating families and inhumane treatment of migrants at the Mexican border and at home. They have also highlighted that ICE couldn’t do its work without Palantir’s tech with it being called ‘mission critical’ to the agency’s actions.

In 2014, the company got its first major contract with ICE to develop and operate its intelligence database which is used to gather vast amounts of personal information on migrants living in America in order to target and deport them. ICE has been accused of human rights violations at home and along the border and was allegedly responsible for two small children left at home alone for over a week after their parents were detained at work. Not only did Thiel donate to Trump’s political campaign, focused on a border wall and the deportation of millions of people looking for a better life, he also provided the technology Trump needed to enact his policies. Currently, there is no evidence of Theil donating to Trump in the upcoming 2024 election.

For more information on ICE and Palantir’s deadly alliance check out this report from Mijente, a Latinx rights and justice group in the US.

Predictive Policing across the US is also being enabled by Palantir’s tech. These kinds of programs use racist and problematic feedback loops to further criminalise individuals and entire communities. This report gives further information and reporting by activists and campaigners in Los Angeles.

The AI Arms Race

Palantir was founded on the belief that the United States, its allies, and partners should harness the most advanced technical capabilities for their defense and prosperity.” (Alex Karp, CEO)

Palantir positions itself as a tech vanguard in war and weapons AI and given its involvement in the genocide of Gaza and supporting Ukraine, we can see why. If nothing else, it’s been getting its weapon tech well-tested in recent years. Karp told members at Davos in 2020 that  ”The core mission of our company always was to make the West, especially America, the strongest in the world”. The bulk of its contracts are with governments, but it also has many private corporate customers. In 2022, the company secured over a billion dollars in revenue from government contracts, but it also has many private corporate customers who brought in over $800m.

The company’s AI is being used in armed conflict – conflicts it says defend liberal democracies – and some see the company as playing a key role in what the future of warfare will look like. The company’s partners show how embedded it is in Western countries with arrangements in place with the US Air and Space Force, Navy and Marines and Army and National Security Agency (NSA). In addition, it has contracts with the UK’s GCHQ, Ministry of Defence, Home Office and several European police forces and governments.

Karp insists that Palantir is responsible for countering the rising threat of far-right power in Europe and the US and has said that most EU countries use its counter-terrorism product. A recent court case in Germany found that the Gotham platform was being used by police in ways that might subject people to investigations and police surveillance by falsely linking them to supposed criminal activity. The court found it unconstitutional and its expansion in Germany has been slowed. The Danish police and Europol are also known to use Palantir’s software, along with other EU countries France, Italy and Norway. The company invests in many arms, defence and military projects and companies, including Anduril.

As previously mentioned, Anduril is a US AI arms company that claims to have technologically advanced US and allies’ military capabilities. It makes ominous futuristic weapons that feel like something out of a dystopian sci-fi film. The company is partnered with the UK, US and Australian Defence agencies. Its software is made to enable sharing information across different countries securely. Not content with tech on earth, Palantir also invests millions in space intelligence infrastructure via BlackSky, a space-based data, image and real-time analytics company that does most of its work with the US government. The companies partnered in 2021 to enable the US government to use satellites to predict geo-political changes in order to influence economics and national security. Two government-funded spy companies predicting events together, nothing to see here.

Palantir doesn’t look set to slow down on its defence investments or work and it is currently in the running for a massive US Army “battle management” contract called TITAN. Speaking with Fox News recently Karp said: ‘’We must do better on the battlefield. We must do better on the battlefield of ideas’’. We say, watch this space for more ideologically worrying comments from the CEO of the heavyweight tech company.

International Resistance to Tech Tyranny

Normal people, campaigners, civil rights activists and sometimes even Palantir’s own staff are pushing back against Palantir’s rapid expansion. In many places where the company works. people are fighting against the private company’s encroachment into their lives and communities.

Thiel’s company took over the Pentagon’s  Project Maven from Google in 2019. The project entailed training AI to target drone attacks more efficiently. Google’s staff successfully protested the work, saying they didn’t want to be involved in building war technology. Meanwhile, Palantir’s own staff have protested against contracts with ICE that supported raids, deportations and the removal of children from their families. Sadly staff were not successful and Palantir renewed their ICE contracts going on to blast other Silicon Valley tech companies for not being patriotic enough. The Pentagon recently came out to say that Palantir was the only supplier worth working with for Project Maven as it was awarded a new $13m (£10.3m) contract. The US Army also awarded Palantir a $250m (£198m) contract for AI capabilities for three years.

It’s not only activists in the US organising around Palantir’s deadly tech.

In Germany, campaigners have been fighting their own battles and partially won a legal case against police and government use of Palantir’s tech for predictive policing. Artists in Germany also protested the company’s ‘’toxic sponsorship’’ of a digital art exhibition in 2023.

Closer to home in England, we have recently seen health workers and Palestine solidarity campaigners protest against Palantir’s NHS contracts. In part two, we explore how the US tech giant moved from being a CIA-backed start-up to serve the West and its allies, to becoming a big player in the NHS during the pandemic and beyond. Not without challenge of course.

Palantir says that it wants to support the US and its allies to become stronger. But it seems ‘stronger’ means a continued drive towards white supremacy and private profit. These profits strengthen violent borders and racist, classist police surveillance. Thiel and Karp are super rich, neoliberal, tech bros with a taste for being controversial, making money from other people’s suffering and bolstering governments which condone genocide. Palantir’s right about something; it is on the cutting edge of technology and has the potential to become increasingly influential in what the future of warfare, policing, borders, and healthcare looks like. Understanding the importance of tech, big data and AI and how these now shape our world is important. Pushing back against the corporate technologies used for the benefit and profit of the elite and powerful is integral.

Palantir Technologies UK Ltd.
Birchin Court,
5th Floor,
19-25 Birchin Lane,

Subsidiary at the same address: Palantir Technologies UK – Eagle, Ltd.

Secretary at same address: Zedra Cosec (uk) Limited

The photo in the body of this article is by the talented Talia Woodin.