A showdown over law enforcement information and who controls it is taking place between the New York Police Department and Palantir Technologies, the $20 billion Silicon Valley startup that for years has analyzed data for New York City police, BuzzFeed News reports. The NYPD has created a system to replace Palantir and is cancelling its contract with the firm. Police officials want to transfer the analysis generated by Palantir’s software to the new system, but Palantir has not produced the full analysis in a standardized format that would work with the new software, the city says.
Lawyers from each side have gotten involved. Given the work Palantir does for many other government clients, the standoff over a seemingly arcane technical issue has implications for a range of services, from international espionage to battlefield intelligence. Palantir has insisted that it is cooperating with the police department’s requests, while the NYPD maintains that it has still not received the information that it is owed. The NYPD has been a Palantir customer since at least 2012, and Palantir has touted the relationship to help it drum up business. The software takes arrest records, license-plate reads, parking tickets and more, and graphs the data in a way that can reveal connections among crimes and people. In 2014, the police department used Palantir’s analysis to plan a sting that landed rapper Bobby Shmurda behind bars. The new New York system, named Cobalt, is a group of IBM products tied together with NYPD-created software. The police department believes Cobalt is cheaper and more intuitive than Palantir.