To: University of Cambridge Students and Academics
Tell Palantir to Drop its Contracts with Tyrants #NoTechForTyrants: University of Cambridge
This fall, Palantir has the option to cancel its contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency that has been unleashed under the Trump administration to target, detain, and deport thousands of immigrants across the country.
We the undersigned are pledging not to work at Palantir while it continues to do business with ICE. We will not apply for jobs at Palantir, we will not interview for jobs at Palantir, and we will not accept jobs at Palantir while the company is engaged in the business of deportation.
We call on the company to cancel its contracts with ICE and we call on all students to join us in withholding our talent from Palantir.
Why is this important?
Palantir sells two tools to ICE. The first, Investigative Case Management (ICM), is “mission critical” to ICE’s efforts, according to government documents, and was used at the border to investigate the families and sponsors of children who crossed the border alone. The operation, designed specifically to dissuade children from joining family in the United States, resulted in the arrests of at least 443 people over 90 days.
Its second tool, FALCON, is used by agents leading workplace raids, which increased by 650% during President Trump’s first year in office and arrest thousands of people every year just for being undocumented. During a raid in which ICE agents hit 7-11s nationwide, all agents were told to download Palantir’s FALCON mobile app for use during the raid. FALCON is used by agents who lead raids like those in Mississippi in early August, when almost 700 people were arrested en masse during the first day of school for many, leaving some children without either parent when they came home; at least two children were left alone for eight days because both of their parents were arrested and detained by ICE.
Palantir can cancel both of these contracts. Its ICM contract is up for renewal on September 20, while its FALCON contract is up on November 27. We know Palantir workers, academics, and a wide coalition of ordinary citizens from Latinx and Jewish groups have called for the company to drop its contracts, but executives have ignored these calls, calculating that it’s better business for the company to stay close to the government than to follow ethical considerations.
We hope they reconsider. There are dozens of schools represented by the students who have signed this pledge. All of us are committed to pursuing Palantir across our campuses. We will kick recruiters out of career fairs, protest company speakers on campus, and urge university administrators to drop the company’s sponsorship at every turn.
We are not alone. Earlier this year, hundreds of academics pressured U.C. Berkeley to drop Palantir as a sponsor of a privacy scholars conference. In late August, Lesbians Who Tech dropped Palantir as a sponsor of its annual conference, citing its work for immigration enforcement. Just two days later, the Grace Hopper Celebration, the largest conference for female tech workers worldwide, dropped Palantir as a sponsor just hours after learning of its role in human rights abuses.
In the United Kingdom, the Cabinet Office has paid £741,000 GBP for “IT Services” to Palantir since 2015, taking its place on the UK government’s ‘approved list of IT suppliers’ - this in spite of the knowledge that Palantir has acted in bad faith in the UK already, having attempted to obtain Cambridge Analytica data. With at least 14 UK police forces using Palantir as vendors for analytical technologies, it is clear that there is significant and worrying market penetration in the UK alone. The UK arm of Palantir has generated £10 million for its parent company as of December 2018, and remains one of the largest (if not the largest) Palantir office to date.
The company employs workers from elite UK institutions including the University of Cambridge, where it awards student prizes for best dissertation, and appears as a member of the Supporters’ Club at the Department of Computer Science and Technology (for which it pays an annual fee). More broadly, it also funds the Women in Technology Scholarship (Europe), which is open to female-identifying students who are in a full-time undergraduate or masters program at a European university, including the University of Cambridge.
As more of us learn about Palantir’s work and refuse complicity in human rights abuses, the company’s recruitment will decline and its business will suffer. Palantir will become a pariah, shut off from academia and computer science talent unless it decides to change tack.
Join us. If you are a student, sign below to tell Palantir you will not work with them while they build tools that enable human rights abuses. Through recruitment, seminars, and other events, we are funnelled into tech companies that facilitate the detention and deportation of immigrants, the surveillance of marginalised communities, and beyond, in the United States, Europe, and globally. Many students choose to work at tech companies immediately after graduation, and are thus either directly responsible or complicit in the violence tech companies facilitate on immigrants and refugees.
We have the responsibility and the leverage to change this technology. They cannot build the tools if we don’t work on it for them.