Activist buyers to strain privately held Palantir on human rights

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SAN FRANCISCO (Information) – A bunch advocating moral investing will ask backers of tech analytics firm Palantir Applied sciences to push for adjustments to its enterprise practices, a uncommon case of coordinated shareholder motion towards a privately held firm.

FILE PHOTO: Activists protest outdoors the Palantir Applied sciences software program firm for allegedly serving to ICE and the Trump administration in New York Metropolis, U.S., September 13, 2019. Information/Shannon Stapleton

The Investor Alliance for Human Rights, which claims greater than 150 institutional members representing $four trillion in managed belongings, faults Palantir for contracts with authorities companies together with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“By means of its multimillion-dollar U.S. authorities contracts, Palantir has performed a mission important function in enabling ICE to hold out its actions,” the group mentioned in a presentation offered to Information upfront of its announcement. “The corporate is failing to meet its human rights obligations.”

Palantir mentioned the report was deceptive. “We all the time welcome an sincere and open dialogue relating to advanced societal points, so it’s disappointing to see a one-sided view,” mentioned Courtney Bowman, Palantir’s director of privateness and civil liberties engineering.              

Although Palantir itself is non-public, the group says buyers embrace such publicly traded entities as BlackRock, Allianz and Alger Capital. The corporate is trying to elevate one other non-public financing spherical that might worth the corporate at $25 billion, Information reported in September. It was co-founded by distinguished enterprise capitalist Peter Thiel, who spoke on the 2016 Republican conference in assist of then-candidate Donald Trump.

“The relative impunity of personal firms heightens the dangers of human rights impacts, rising the necessity for personal fairness buyers to push these firms by way of different means to respect human rights,” mentioned alliance Director Paloma Munoz Fast.

The alliance final 12 months criticized Amazon.com Inc’s human rights document, serving to immediate unsuccessful shareholder resolutions on actions together with the corporate’s sale of facial-recognition software program. Amazon final week revealed its “international human rights rules” through which it acknowledged a “accountability to respect and uphold internationally acknowledged human rights by way of the moral therapy of our workforce and people inside our price chain.”

Kate Elliot, senior moral researcher at London-based Rathbone Greenbank Investments, an Alliance supporter, mentioned she would elevate human rights with Rathbone portfolio firm RELX, previously Reed Elsevier, which has a enterprise funding in Palantir.

“They don’t seem to be immune from reputational injury as a result of it’s a enterprise challenge,” Elliot mentioned.

Microsoft (MSFT.O) and Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O) Google have additionally drawn consideration this 12 months for enterprise investments in startups that critics say might need fallen afoul of these firms’ acknowledged rules on facial recognition and synthetic intelligence applied sciences.

Microsoft invested in Israeli agency AnyVision, whose facial recognition gear has been deployed by Israeli authorities at Palestinian checkpoints.

After media studies that AnyVision’s gear was used for mass surveillance in Palestinian territory, Microsoft mentioned such use “would violate our facial recognition rules” and final week employed former U.S. Legal professional Common Eric Holder to audit AnyVision’s compliance with its ethics pointers.

Google funding arm Gradient Ventures, in the meantime, has backed Cogniac, whose software program is used to shortly course of photographs from the battlefield. Google’s revealed rules embrace a dedication to not deploy AI for “weapons or different applied sciences whose principal function or implementation is to trigger or straight facilitate harm to individuals.”

Google mentioned Gradient investments observe the mum or dad firm rules however declined to debate the Pentagon picture processing.

Reporting by Joseph Menn; Modifying by Greg Mitchell and Cynthia Osterman