Mass Deportations will make Peter Thiel even richer

My joke about Thiel's "Brownshirt Combinator" isn't as funny now, is it?

Transition Adviser Peter Thiel Could Directly Profit From Mass Deportations:

Palantir Technologies, the data-mining company co-founded by billionaire and Trump transition adviser Peter Thiel, will likely assist the Trump administration in its efforts to track and collect intelligence on immigrants, according to a review of public records by The Intercept. Since 2011, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's Office of Homeland Security Investigations has paid Palantir tens of millions of dollars to help construct and operate a complex intelligence system called FALCON, which allows ICE to store, search, and analyze troves of data that include family relationships, employment information, immigration history, criminal records, and home and work addresses. [...]

Working closely with a president-elect who has pledged to dramatically expand ICE, Thiel's varied connections to the immigration agency place him in a position to potentially benefit financially from a deportation campaign that carries highly personal stakes for millions of Americans. [...]

In addition to containing information on family relationships and immigration history, the records FALCON collects can also include photographs of subjects, employment information, educational background, and "geospatial data." [...]

Last month, it was reported that Trump and his advisers are drafting plans to launch a campaign of workplace raids across the country to find undocumented immigrants. With a mandate to enforce laws relating to unauthorized employment, HSI has been identified as the primary component within ICE that conducts such job-site raids. This past October, after a lengthy investigation, HSI agents raided several Mexican restaurants in Buffalo, New York, arresting more than a dozen workers, some of whom were charged with criminal counts of "illegal re-entry," raising an outcry from immigrant advocates. In 2013, after an HSI raid on carwashes in Phoenix, more than two dozen immigrants were reportedly sent to Enforcement and Removal Operations officers for possible deportation.

ICE can conduct such raids even in so-called sanctuary cities that have refused to allow local law enforcement to cooperate with ICE in finding and removing undocumented immigrants. [...]

Palantir, which is backed by the CIA's venture capital arm, did not respond to a request for comment regarding its ICE contracts and concerns over potential conflicts of interest. Peter Thiel spokesperson Jeremiah Hall declined to comment on a list of emailed queries, including a question asking whether Thiel has yet signed the Trump transition ethics agreement.

If this all sounds familiar, it's because it IS VERY FUCKING FAMILIAR:

IBM's Role in the Holocaust -- What the New Documents Reveal:

Newly-released documents expose more explicitly the details of IBM's pivotal role in the Holocaust -- all six phases: identification, expulsion from society, confiscation, ghettoization, deportation, and even extermination. Moreover, the documents portray with crystal clarity the personal involvement and micro-management of IBM president Thomas J. Watson in the company's co-planning and co-organizing of Hitler's campaign to destroy the Jews. [...]

Among the newly-released documents and archival materials are secret 1941 correspondence setting up the Dutch subsidiary of IBM to work in tandem with the Nazis, company President Thomas Watson's personal approval for the 1939 release of special IBM alphabetizing machines to help organize the rape of Poland and the deportation of Polish Jews, as well as the IBM Concentration Camp Codes including IBM's code for death by Gas Chamber. Among the newly published photos of the punch cards is the one developed for the statistician who reported directly to Himmler and Eichmann. [...]

From the first moments of the Hitler regime in 1933, IBM used its exclusive punch card technology and its global monopoly on information technology to organize, systematize, and accelerate Hitler's anti-Jewish program, step by step facilitating the tightening noose. The punch cards, machinery, training, servicing, and special project work, such as population census and identification, was managed directly by IBM headquarters in New York, and later through its subsidiaries in Germany, known as Deutsche Hollerith-Maschinen Gesellschaft (DEHOMAG), Poland, Holland, France, Switzerland, and other European countries. [...]

Particularly powerful are the newly-released copies of the IBM concentration camp codes. IBM maintained a customer site, known as the Hollerith Department, in virtually every concentration camp to sort or process punch cards and track prisoners. The codes show IBM's numerical designation for various camps. Auschwitz was 001, Buchenwald was 002; Dachau was 003, and so on. Various prisoner types were reduced to IBM numbers, with 3 signifying homosexual, 9 for anti-social, and 12 for Gypsy. The IBM number 8 designated a Jew. Inmate death was also reduced to an IBM digit: 3 represented death by natural causes, 4 by execution, 5 by suicide, and code 6 designated "special treatment" in gas chambers. IBM engineers had to create Hollerith codes to differentiate between a Jew who had been worked to death and one who had been gassed, then print the cards, configure the machines, train the staff, and continuously maintain the fragile systems every two weeks on site in the concentration camps. [...]

At a time when the Watson name and the IBM image is being laundered by whiz computers that can answer questions on TV game shows, it is important to remember that Thomas Watson and his corporate behemoth were guilty of genocide. The Treaty on Genocide, Article 2, defines genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group." In Article 3, the treaty states that among the "acts [that] shall be punishable," are the ones in subsection (e), that is "complicity in genocide." As for who shall be punished, the Treaty specifies the perpetrators in Article 4: "Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article 3 shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials, or private individuals."

International Business Machines, and its president Thomas J. Watson, committed genocide by any standard. It was never about the antisemitism. It was never about the National Socialism. It was always about the money. Business was their middle name.

We, the undersigned, are employees of tech organizations and companies based in the United States. We are engineers, designers, business executives, and others whose jobs include managing or processing data about people. We are choosing to stand in solidarity with Muslim Americans, immigrants, and all people whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by the incoming administration's proposed data collection policies. We refuse to build a database of people based on their Constitutionally-protected religious beliefs. We refuse to facilitate mass deportations of people the government believes to be undesirable. [...]

Today we stand together to say: not on our watch, and never again.

Facebook Spokesperson Calls Muslim Registry "Straw Man":

A spokesperson for Facebook, accidentally responding to a BuzzFeed News reporter via email, called the notion of a Muslim registry a "straw man." Seemingly thinking he was addressing a colleague, he suggested that the best course of action was to not respond to the reporter's inquiry.

Earlier today BuzzFeed News emailed Facebook to ask whether the social networking giant would make a commitment to limit data collection that could be used for ethnic or religious targeting, including a pledge not to build a registry of Muslims, if asked to do so by the government. A Facebook public relations representative intended to forward our request, along with a message about how to respond, within Facebook, but accidentally sent the email to BuzzFeed News instead and in doing so provided inadvertent insight into how the company plays the optics game. [...]

Happy to talk to her off record about why this is attacking a straw man. Also I heard back from her that she may or may not write an additional piece depending on what response she gets from companies. So sounds like not making any stmt on record is the way to go.

The representative subsequently called, and asked that the email be considered off the record. This preference for off-the-record spin over on-the-record comments is fairly typical of large tech companies. Facebook ultimately declined to comment. [...]

"Facebook never would have taken the Lord's name in vain had they known the mic was live."

But if you think that Facebook is not already a Muslim registry, you have really not been paying attention:

Facebook, of course, already asks for and retains sensitive information about the race, religion, and location of its users and allows advertisers to target narrow segments of people based on that personal information. Government officials here and abroad already use the social network to track activists and dissidents.

"We would never create a registry" sounds a little less convincing when phrased as "we would never run that particular SQL query on our existing database", doesn't it?


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16 Responses:

  1. MattyJ says:

    Facebook turned into a death camp so gradually I didn't even notice.

  2. Val Aurora suggests that the "Muslim database" actually doesn't exist, yet. The quality of data needed to run an ad campaign is a lot lower than what you need to carry out a mass deportation.

    Her evidence is a bit thin - she cites her experience working with a database purchased for some kind of activist outreach. That might be lower quality than what Palantir or Facebook can do.

    • phessler says:

      Val Aurora suggests that the "Muslim database" actually doesn't exist, yet. The quality of data needed to run an ad campaign is a lot lower than what you need to carry out a mass deportation.

      Do you really think that matters to whoever is running a mass deportation? The US Gov has _already_ put infants on a list of terrorists, bombed weddings because "YOLO, my bad", and have even blocked a sitting US Senator from flying back to Congress because some IRA jerkface once used his (incredibly common) name as an alias.

      • Yeah, to be honest I thought a bit more about it and I think her analysis doesn't apply.

        Someone running an activist campaign has a low budget, and is bearing all the costs of targeting people.

        The government can (and has) passed laws which put the onus on the targeted people to self-report… or else. Or to take time out of their day to sort out misclassifications.

        • Nick Lamb says:

          While I guess that focusing on the data processing feels natural to this blog, it's the wrong place to look. Same gross screw-up as every PCI Compliance meeting that gets obsessed with encrypting credit card numbers.

          Build institutions and social structures that resist the practice you oppose, not the data collection that might make it slightly easier if it happens. The reason the Federal Government hasn't taken away everybody's guns isn't because the NRA managed to prevent the ownership paperwork being indexed by postal address, it's because the US is culturally allergic to taking away the guns. If you have to choose between living in a country where giving your religion on census paperwork is required by law, or one where the police commit racist murders and are found innocent it should be a no brainer.

          • dave glasser says:

            While I agree with your overall point that the overall social structures and institutions are more relevant than data collection, it absolutely is the case that the NRA has managed to prevent gun ownership paperwork from being indexed by address, or in fact computerized at all. is a fascinating article about the entirely-non-digital process involved in running a trace on a gun used in a crime.

  3. J. Peterson says:

    "Trump transition ethics agreement." Oxymoron of the year?

    Would love to see the actual document. Is there a standard level of kickback to Trump, or does each miscreant sign up for a unique percentage?

  4. Nate says:

    Please sign the pledge at

    What this does is show that the most valuable asset to tech companies (their workers) will not remain employed at a company that violates human rights by participating in mass deportation. This gives the companies more leverage to push back on requests for harmful data since it would create a hiring and a retention problem. It also reminds us to advocate for not collecting harmful data in the first place.

  5. synerr says:

    As a European, what worries me more than Trump's victory is the reaction of the American Left towards it. OTOH they whine about his restrictive immigration policy. OTO they themselves never came up with a way to keep an immigration-friendly country safe without turning it into a surveillance state. Bush decided that the answer to 9/11 was to dial surveillance to eleven, and Obama did nothing to revert that despite promising exactly that. Now with bi-partisan support, latent total surveillance is here to stay. OTOH left-leaning techies worry that the troves of Big Data will be abused. OTO they (minus the privacy activists) never tried to hamper their growth by any significant means. Now with everyone dependent on smartphones, Big Data is here to stay, and it will only aid the surveillance state. OTOH the left laments the events in Aleppo and Syria as a whole. OTO they campaign for restricting gun rights even though access to weapons early on was exactly one of those things that the FSA would have needed to get a realistic shot at ousting the tyrant. Now with Aleppo fallen, Assad is here to stay.

    The problem of the Left is that they've given up their claim to providing a concept of progress that is consistent and workable enough to be credible, and that strives to embolden individual autonomy instead of curtailing it. Unless they fix that quickly, the West is doomed.

    • tobias says:

      Sorry to invoke Stallman, but it's sad to see people claim they are dependent on their smartphones. It's not even close to true. It's fucking pathetic. They can leave them at home and look at a map. It represents a marginal improvement in convenience at great personal and societal cost.

      Openly racist people without this "level of advanced technology" were able to land on the moon, and get back in one piece.

      • synerr says:

        A “marginal improvement in convenience”? Maybe ten years ago, but today it's completely different. I know first-hand how hard dispensing with smartphones is because I never owned even a dumbphone. However, I always read on the Internet how incredibly useful it is to submit to the Panopticon: Google Calendar intelligently planning your day eases cognitive load; Waze makes commutes less stressful; Google Maps tells you what's around you; being always reachable makes you a more useful employee; and if unforeseen things get in your way, having the Internet and your address book at your fingertips is invaluable. I, on the other hand, have to always plan carefully ahead, bring maps and notes, and hope that there's a payphone nearby if I need one. And what do I gain from the added hassle? Barely anything because so many others have opted in that all the info the Panopticon has on them is enough to infer almost the same about me. A few weeks ago it fully sank in that there is no way back. Do you know what made me realize this? The fact that more and more elderly have begun using smartphones (56% of the baby boomers have one according to Pew). The Panopticon managed to teach these old dogs new tricks. In ten years you'll be seen as a freak (or spook) for not having a smartphone. You will simply not be able to function in society without one.

        • tobias says:

          "I know first-hand how hard dispensing with smartphones is because I never owned even a dumbphone." Just buy a dumbphone. You don't need to look for payphones.

          Basically you've saying you've never tried and therefore are only projecting. Grown ups have been able to manage all of the demanding tasks you list for centuries.

          What you gain is better focus, ability to organise and plan your day and less distractions. And you make it less easy for the bastards.

          I too realise that people that go off grid have basically been snitched on by the weak minded. But with time the 'cyber' relationships turn in to a decade old dead trail and the real relationships are what's left. The whatsapp/facebook owning your friends phone book is really the worst graph to have given up, except maybe gmail - and there's nothing to be done.

          However after changing cities my contacts have changed dramatically and I guess there's not much to be gained from my old info.

          Anyone that talked about room641a was a freak or spook from 2006 to 2013, and having been branded with that label from during those years caused no personal harm.

          When they try to make cash illegal/smart phone based you'll see the real pushback.

    • Not that Jamie says:

      1) I wish I had a nickel every time someone told me what The Problem with The Left was.

      2) The Problem with The Left is that The Left is made of humans. The end.

      3) Europe has a serious problem: the US is an empire just beginning to decline, and Europe's security is defined by the US. Rather than critiquing our perennially-fucked, occasionally disasterously so political culture, your time may be more prudently devoted to figuring out what the fuck to do when the US goes batshit. It will; when and exactly how are open, but, spoiler: this is the US. "How" always features bombs and guns.

  6. It's kind of buried in the pledge, but note the text about deleting harmful data that's already stored. That's what the fight is about.

    Also notice that tech companies refused to comment on anything to do with a registry until 2K employees signed this thing, when they suddenly developed a loud public voice on the topic.

    I realize the pledge is easy to make fun of for being a small step, but maybe consider helping us follow it with subsequent, larger steps. The key points are that 1) private industry, not the government, has this data for the time being and 2) tech companies are very vulnerable to collective employee action.

  7. Not that Jamie says:

    I'm waiting for libertarians to tell us how Theil is enhancing everyone's freedom by restricting human movement.

    FREEDOM, bitches.

  8. This item on developing public intelligence tools for everyone that I posted to OpenPCAST (an Obama-initiated site for getting ideas about new government projects) is no longer accessible there under Trump right now (the site now requires a login, thank goodness for!), but here is another way of looking at this situation:

    Key paragraph: Now, there are many people out there (including computer scientists) who may raise legitimate concerns about privacy or other important issues in regards to any system that can support the intelligence community (as well as civilian needs). As I see it, there is a race going on. The race is between two trends. On the one hand, the internet can be used to profile and round up dissenters to the scarcity-based economic status quo (thus legitimate worries about privacy and something like TIA). On the other hand, the internet can be used to change the status quo in various ways (better designs, better science, stronger social networks advocating for some healthy mix of a basic income, a gift economy, democratic resource-based planning, improved local subsistence, etc., all supported by better structured arguments like with the Genoa II approach) to the point where there is abundance for all and rounding up dissenters to mainstream economics is a non-issue because material abundance is everywhere. So, as Bucky Fuller said, whether is will be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race to the very end. While I can't guarantee success at the second option of using the internet for abundance for all, I can guarantee that if we do nothing, the first option of using the internet to round up dissenters (or really, anybody who is different, like was done using IBM computers in WWII Germany) will probably prevail. So, I feel the global public really needs access to these sorts of sensemaking tools in an open source way, and the way to use them is not so much to "fight back" as to "transform and/or transcend the system". As Bucky Fuller said, you never change thing by fighting the old paradigm directly; you change things by inventing a new way that makes the old paradigm obsolete.

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