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Secretive Company Palantir Preps to Enter the Stock Market

The heavily criticized company hasn't said much about its contracts with agencies such as the Los Angeles Police Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But if it goes public, it will need to reveal more.

Palantir's headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.
Shutterstock/Sundry Photography
Palantir, the secretive and controversial big data company whose work with law enforcement has drawn criticism in recent years, is headed toward the stock market — where its financial information and dealings would become much more open.

For now, the company is keeping those details close to the vest. It announced on July 6 that it had filed its S-1 form with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission confidentially, which means the public won’t get to see it until closer to when the company plans to make its stock market debut.

Despite having many large government contracts — as well as a valuation of $20 billion in 2016, according to PitchBook — Palantir has not divulged much information about its public-sector work. The company’s website describes technology that can unite information from disparate law enforcement systems such as evidence management, case management, records management and computer-aided dispatch platforms.

It has received funding from the CIA-backed investment firm In-Q-Tel.

Civil rights advocates have criticized the company for working with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which is responsible for deporting undocumented immigrants. It has also reportedly served up combat intelligence software to the military, offered automated license plate reader technology to the Los Angeles Police Department and worked on data fusion for law enforcement in San Diego County.

Critics of such technology argue that policing is biased, focusing more heavily on poor and more racially diverse areas than wealthier, whiter areas, and therefore data fusion and predictive systems will tend to amplify existing biases.

Palantir has also worked on COVID-19 tracking, as well as helped the World Food Programme track shipments.

Peter Thiel, co-founder of the company, has also drawn criticism for effectively bankrolling the demise of news website Gawker after it outed him as gay, for his support of Donald Trump and for implying that giving women the right to vote was a mistake.

Though it has filed its initial SEC paperwork confidentially, Palantir’s entry into the stock market — should it come to pass — would require it to file quarterly reports detailing the nature of the company’s business, how much it pays its leadership, how much revenue it brings in and more.

Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.