This story appears in the September 2, 2013 issue of Forbes.
Since rumors began to spread that a startup called Palantir helped to kill Osama bin Laden, Alex Karp hasn’t had much time to himself.
On one sun-baked July morning in Silicon Valley Palantir’s lean 45-year-old chief executive, with a top-heavy mop of frazzled hair, hikes the grassy hills around Stanford University’s massive satellite antennae known as the Dish, a favorite meditative pastime. But his solitude is disturbed somewhat by “Mike,” an ex-Marine–silent, 6 foot 1, 270 pounds of mostly pectoral muscle–who trails him everywhere he goes. Even on the suburban streets of Palo Alto, steps from Palantir’s headquarters, the bodyguard lingers a few feet behind.
“It puts a massive cramp on your life,” Karp complains, his expression hidden behind large black sunglasses. “There’s nothing worse for reducing your ability to flirt with someone.”
Karp’s 24/7 security detail is meant to protect him from extremists who have sent him death threats and conspiracy theorists who have called Palantir to rant about the Illuminati. Schizophrenics have stalked Karp outside his office for days at a stretch. “It’s easy to be the focal point of fantasies,” he says, “if your company is involved in realities like ours.”
Palantir lives the realities of its customers: the NSA, the FBI and the CIA–an early investor through its In-Q-Tel venture fund–along with an alphabet soup of other U.S. counterterrorism and military agencies. In the last five years Palantir has become the go-to company for mining massive data sets for intelligence and law enforcement applications, with a slick software interface and coders who parachute into clients’ headquarters....... continued. ( See Story in Forbes)
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Excerpt from the Forbes story:
"AT 4:07 P.M. ON NOV. 14, 2009 Michael Katz-Lacabe was parking his red Toyota Prius in the driveway of his home in the quiet Oakland suburb of San Leandro when a police car drove past. A license plate camera mounted on the squad car silently and routinely snapped a photo of the scene: his off-white, single-floor house, his wilted lawn and rosebushes, and his 5- and 8-year-old daughters jumping out of the car.
Katz-Lacabe, a gray-bearded and shaggy-haired member of the local school board, community activist and blogger, saw the photo only a year later: In 2010 he learned about the San Leandro Police Department’s automatic license plate readers, designed to constantly photograph and track the movements of every car in the city. He filed a public records request for any images that included either of his two cars. The police sent back 112 photos. He found the one of his children most disturbing."
“Who knows how many other people’s kids are captured in these images?” he asks. His concerns go beyond a mere sense of parental protection. “With this technology you can wind back the clock and see where everyone is, if they were parked at the house of someone other than their wife, a medical marijuana clinic, a Planned Parenthood center, a protest.”