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[liberationtech] Palantir & Amsterdam Privacy Conference

Yosem Companys ycompanys at
Sat Sep 22 14:53:37 PDT 2018

From: Niels ten Oever <lists at> posted to <
nettime-l at>

The next Amsterdam Privacy Conference is about to get underway, providing a
key space for debate for hundreds of privacy researchers. Unfortunately the
organisers have chosen to invite sponsorship from some problematic
companies, with Palantir as a platinum sponsor.

A group of academics and advocates have drafted the statement below, making
three demands of the organizers of the conference (published at We are asking keynote speakers, conference attendees
and members of the academic community and civil society to sign the
statement. We would greatly appreciate your support with this: it is a
process of change that is long overdue, and we are adding our voices to
many that are already speaking out about this issue across related
disciplines. It would be great if the privacy studies community could lead
this process and model the discussion for academia as a whole.

If you would be willing to sign, you can either do so by emailing your name
and affiliation to signon at

Thanks for considering, and best wishes,


**Funding Matters**

As privacy scholars and advocates concerned with human rights, we write to
express our dismay with the decision to have Palantir as a platinum sponsor
for the Amsterdam Privacy Conference (APC).

Privacy is one of the central challenges of our time and a pressing topic
in today’s discussions on platforms, algorithms and policy making. The APC
is a powerful forum for academics and advocates from around the world to
move the field of privacy research forward. The conference is an important
venue for privacy scholars from many different disciplines.

The presence of Palantir as a sponsor of this conference legitimizes the
company's practices and gives it the opportunity to position itself as part
of the agenda. This is deeply problematic and extremely regrettable.

Palantir's business model is based on a particular form of surveillance
capitalism that targets marginalized communities and accelerates the use of
discriminatory technologies such as predictive policing, for which the
company has already been heavily criticized [1, 2]. Among Palantir's public
clients are police agencies and defense departments from all over the
world. In the last year, Palantir has helped the Trump administration to
find and deport asylum seekers, undocumented immigrants and refugees,
raising serious concerns about wide-scale human rights violations [3].
While the company is largely secretive about its operations, it reportedly
collaborated with Cambridge Analytica [4][5],
hedge funds, banks and financial service firms [6].

Despite criticism over Palantir's sponsorship since the conference's 2015
edition, APC's sponsorship strategy has not changed. This stance has
consequences: it contributes to the marginalization and exclusion of
scholars that otherwise would have participated and enriched the
conversation at these events. Hence it also impacts APC's ability to
nurture public debate on privacy.

Palantir has also surfaced as a sponsor at a range of other prominent
privacy and technology policy events. Due to similar concerns, some of
these conferences have discontinued Palantir sponsorship, an example that
we hope to see replicated. Given the political, economic, and societal
implications of privacy today, the funding strategies of our conferences
matter more than ever. However complicated the process may be, it is time
to develop sponsorship criteria and guidelines that ensure academic
independence and proper consideration of human rights.

We therefore call for:

1. The discontinuation of Palantir's sponsorship of the Amsterdam Privacy
2. Organizers and participants alike to engage in an action-oriented
discussion on corporate funding of academic events,
3. The development of rigorous criteria and guidelines for corporate
sponsorship, for example, based on Human Rights Impact Assessments.


Niels ten Oever
Researcher and PhD Candidate
Datactive Research Group
University of Amsterdam

PGP fingerprint    2458 0B70 5C4A FD8A 9488
                   643A 0ED8 3F3A 468A C8B3
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