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Palantir Technologies Contracts Raise Human Rights Concerns Before NYSE Direct Listing

In advance of the direct listing of Palantir Technologies, Inc. on the New York Stock Exchange on September 29, Amnesty International released today a new briefing, Failing to Do Right: The Urgent Need for Palantir to Respect Human Rights, where the organization concludes that Palantir is failing to conduct human rights due diligence around its contracts with ICE, and that there is a high risk that Palantir is contributing to human rights violations of asylum-seekers and migrants through the ways the company’s technology facilitates ICE operations.

Michael Kleinman, the Director of Amnesty International’s Silicon Valley Initiative said:

"Palantir touts its ethical commitments, saying it will never work with regimes that abuse human rights abroad. This is deeply ironic, given the company’s willingness stateside to work directly with ICE, which has used its technology to execute harmful policies that target migrants and asylum-seekers."

"We could close our eyes and pretend that contrary to all the evidence, Palantir is a rights-respecting company or we can call this façade what it is: another company placing profit over people, no matter the human cost."

On September 10, Amnesty International sent a letter to Palantir raising concerns about its contracts with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for products and services for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In its response, Palantir emphasized that its contracts are only with the criminal investigative division of ICE, called Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and as such its software "does not facilitate" civil immigration enforcement by ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) unit. However, this claim is inconsistent with other evidence indicating that Palantir’s technology has indeed been used in this context, including U.S. government records which the company now disputes.

Instead of substantively addressing the human rights risks of its contracts with ICE, Palantir has sought to deflect and minimize its responsibility. Moreover, the company has not provided evidence of due diligence steps it has taken to prevent its technology being used to facilitate human rights violations by ICE.

In 2017, ICE relied on Palantir technology to arrest parents and caregivers of unaccompanied children, leading to detentions and harming children’s welfare. Similarly, ICE has used Palantir technology to plan mass raids, as with raids that ICE carried out in Mississippi in August 2019, which led to the separation of children from their parents and caregivers, causing irreparable harm to families and communities. These raids in turn led to cases of prolonged detention and deportations. Palantir’s ICM and FALCON technology facilitated these operations by enabling DHS/ICE to identify, share information on, investigate, and track migrants and asylum-seekers to effect arrests and workplace raids.

Transparency is a key component of due diligence and in failing to provide details on how it has addressed the high risks to human rights of its ICE contracts, Palantir is not meeting its responsibility to respect human rights. Amnesty International is calling on the company to prevent its technology from being used to facilitate human rights violations. Palantir must immediately carry out human rights due diligence and take effective steps to ensure that its technology is not contributing to abuses against migrants and asylum-seekers by the U.S. government. As part of this due diligence, Palantir must publish details of the technology it has provided to ICE through its contracts, and the human rights safeguards it has put in place. Until Palantir can demonstrate that its technology is not contributing to abuses against migrants and asylum-seekers and can ensure its technology will not be used for these purposes, it must urgently consider suspending all activities to provide DHS/ICE with products and services that facilitate civil immigration enforcement operations.

Amnesty International is also calling on Congress to conduct robust oversight over Palantir’s contracts with U.S. government agencies, including DHS and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Background and context

Amnesty International’s own research has documented the human rights violations against migrants and asylum-seekers under DHS and ICE through punitive restrictions on access to asylum, illegal family separations, mandatory and indefinite detention, including of children, and the return of people to countries where they face serious human rights violations, and unlawful policies authorizing deportations. ICE’s use of Palantir’s technology in its operations executing harmful policies against migrants and asylum-seekers drew the human rights organizations to raise its concerns with the company. Palantir’s ICM and FALCON technology facilitated these operations by enabling DHS/ICE to identify, share information on, investigate, and track migrants and asylum-seekers to effect arrests and workplace raids, which in turn led to family separations, detentions, and deportations.

While this briefing focuses on Palantir, all companies have a responsibility to respect human rights throughout their operations. An assessment of a company’s actions to uphold its responsibility to respect human rights is a case-by-case determination taking into account the company, the nature of its operations, and the environment in which it is operating. Exposing Palantir’s failure to conduct due diligence and its high risk of contributing to human right violations through its contracts for DHS/ICE for ICM and FALCON, should remind all companies to conduct human rights due diligence in their operations with DHS/ICE.

Full report here.

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