If a technology company creates a platform that allows data integration from disparate databases and a component in its software is called Prism, is that sufficient reason to speculate that it might have some connection with the much-reported NSA PRISM surveillance program?
Gawker‘s Sam Biddle says: “No one knows what Palantir — named after a magical rock in Lord of The Rings that granted remote vision — exactly does.” But it turns out the “secretive data-mining company” provides a lot of information about what it does both through its website and its YouTube channel with 261 videos.
Josh Marshall’s post at TPM was initially based on an email from an anonymous reader who, for what it’s worth (not much), knows a guy who works for Palo Alto-based Palantir (which has over 800 employees). “I want to stress this is a reader email, not TPM reporting,” Marshall wrote before later adding multiple updates but neglecting to include a statement from the company, relayed on Twitter by the Financial Times tech correspondent, Tim Bradshaw: “Palantir’s Prism platform is completely unrelated to any US government program of the same name.”
Why should the company’s denial be taken at face value?
Here’s a good reason.
In the widely seen PowerPoint slide which depicts dates when PRISM collection began for providers beginning with Microsoft, the first date is September 11, 2007. Yahoo came on board in March 2008.
In a 2012 interview with TechCrunch, Palantir founder and CEO Alex Karp describing their platform said: “We didn’t know it would actually work, until 2008, and we didn’t know anyone would buy it until mid-2008, so third quarter 2008.”
Whatever the NSA was using for data collection from Microsoft and Yahoo in late 2007 and early 2008, it’s pretty clear it wasn’t Palantir software.