Karp, who co-founded Palantir alongside billionaire investor Peter Thiel, said that while the company was founded in Silicon Valley, it “seem[s] to share fewer and fewer of the technology sector’s values and commitments.” The CEO defended Palantir’s work in data collection with government agencies while ripping the business practices of other firms active in the technology hub.
“From the start, we have repeatedly turned down opportunities to sell, collect, or mine data. Other technology companies, including some of the largest in the world, have built their entire businesses on doing just that,” Karp wrote. “Software projects with our nation’s defense and intelligence agencies, whose missions are to keep us safe, have become controversial, while companies built on advertising dollars are commonplace.”
Earlier this month, Palantir confirmed its plans to relocate its corporate headquarters from Palo Alto, California, to Denver, Colorado. The company has faced criticism for its willingness to work with government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“Americans will remain tolerant of the idiosyncrasies and excesses of the Valley only to the extent that technology companies are building something substantial that serves the public interest,” Karp said. “The corporate form itself — that is, the privilege to engage in private enterprise — is a product of the state and would not exist without it."
Karp added that Palantir’s software is “used to target terrorists and to keep soldiers safe.” His letter did not single out any one company for criticism.
Palantir intends to begin trading as a public company through a direct listing. The company’s S-1 filing noted a net loss of $579.6 million in 2019. Company officials noted that Palantir has yet to turn a profit in its history. The S-1 filing identified unfavorable media coverage related to Palantir’s work with government agencies as a potential risk factor when it begins public trading.
“Our relationships with government customers and customers that are engaged in certain sensitive industries, including organizations whose products or activities are or are perceived to be harmful, has resulted in public criticism, including from political and social activists, and unfavorable coverage in the media,” the filing says. “Activists have also engaged in public protests at our properties.”
Palantir executives have targeted tech rivals for criticism in the past. Thiel, who was an early investor in social media giant Facebook and sits on its Board, called in July 2019 for the Trump administration to investigate Google over its business dealings in China.
Thiel accused Google of making a “seemingly treasonous decision to work with the Chinese military and not with the US military.” Google denied any wrongdoing.