Secretive surveillance company Palantir says activists' criticisms could hurt its business — but so could addressing their concerns

  • Palantir revealed its stock-listing documents Tuesday, offering one of the first in-depth looks at the secretive data company's financials.
  • In the documents, Palantir acknowledged that criticisms from "political and social activists" as well as "unfavorable coverage in the media" could pose risks to its business.
  • Palantir has long been scrutinized for its work with US military and law enforcement agencies, particularly around the use of its technology by immigration officials in controversial deportation raids.
  • But Palantir also said that "being perceived as yielding" to activists' concerns could harm its business by damaging its relationships with key government clients.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

In its public reveal of stock-listing documents on Tuesday, Palantir gave a nod to the negative attention it has received from activists who have denounced its work with US military and law enforcement agencies.

Palantir filed registration documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a public stock listing on the New York Stock Exchange, offering one of the first comprehensive looks at the secretive data company's financials and operations — as well as potential risks, which it said included criticisms from activists.

"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 repeatedly protested Palantir's work with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which reportedly includes licensing software to ICE to build profiles and plan workplace raids of undocumented immigrants. Lawmakers also questioned its $24.9 million contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to track the spread of COVID-19, asking whether the data is being used to help ICE deport immigrants.

"Palantir is complicit in the surveillance, arrest and deportation of our communities through their work with ICE. Their S1 recognizes that these are risky contracts to take on. We're calling on investors everywhere not to invest when the IPO happens. An investment in Palantir only serves to profit off the continued surveillance & exploitation of communities by ICE," Jacinta Gonzalez, a senior campaign director at Latinx and Chicanx organizing group Mijente, told Business Insider in a statement.

Palantir said that critiques of its work could "engender dissatisfaction among potential and existing customers, investors, and employees."

But the company also said that addressing those critiques could also pose a threat to its business.

"Conversely, being perceived as yielding to activism targeted at certain customers could damage our relationships with certain customers, including governments and government agencies with which we do business, whose views may or may not be aligned with those of political and social activists," the filing says.

Palantir relies heavily on government contracts and also on a small number of major clients. According to the filing, $345 million of the company's $742 million in revenue (46%) last year came from its government work, and its top three customers accounted for 28% of its total revenue.

In a letter to investors included in the filing, Palantir CEO Alex Karp defended the company's work with government clients, suggesting that it will not significantly adjust course or drop any contracts in response to activists' demands.

"Our work and the use of our software present difficult questions… We embrace the complexity that comes from working in areas where the stakes are often very high and the choices may be imperfect," Karp wrote.

"We have chosen sides, and we know that our partners value our commitment. We stand by them when it is convenient, and when it is not," he added.

Disclosure: Palantir Technologies CEO Alexander Karp is a member of Axel Springer’s shareholder committee. Axel Springer owns Insider Inc, Business Insider’s parent company.

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