The CEO of secretive big data startup Palantir, which is looking to IPO this year, says he finds out about a stopped terror attack once a week

Alex Karp Palantir Sun ValleyAlex Karp, chief executive officer of Palantir Technologies, attends the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 12, 2018 in Sun Valley, Idaho.Drew Angerer/Getty Images

  • Big data startup Palantir works with government organizations, and its technology has been used to investigate terror attacks.
  • Palantir CEO Alex Karp said in an interview that he learns about a foiled terrorist attack in Europe once a week.
  • Palantir is reportedly looking at a $41 billion IPO in the coming year.

Alex Karp, the CEO of Palantir, says he learns about a foiled terrorist attack in Europe almost every week.

Palantir, a private company that specializes in big data technology, is known for its secretive work with organizations like the U.S. government and the U.S. Army. The 16-year-old company, which is reportedly planning for $41 billion IPO this year, boasts that its technology has been used in high stakes missions and is able to prevent terrorist attacks.

"I find out about a stopped terror attack in Europe about once a week - and not just the caricature that we all see in the media of radical Muslim attacks - also far right people attacking Muslims," Karp said in an interview on inside.pod, a podcast by Business Insider parent company Axel Springer. "I believe that if those terror attacks had happened you'd have a very different political reality, and that is super motivational."

Palantir's work with government secret services has been controversial, and Karp said people's fears of misuse of software by companies and governments is a "legitimate fear." However, he said that Palantir is actually helping to protect data, not mishandling it.

In Germany, Palantir's software transmitted data about Anis Amri, the perpetrator of the 2016 Berlin Christmas market terrorist attack, to police officers throughout the country. Even in Germany, Palantir is controversial, as politicians have questioned whether a company so involved in the U.S. military should handle German law enforcement data, which includes police databases for criminal investigations and connection data from telephone surveillance.

"Typically, people who are unhappy with Palantir being used by police and clandestine services and the special forces I believe either don't believe we actually are providing data protection, which we are...or they don't trust government entities of any kind to be truthful about what they're doing," Karp said in the interview.

Read more: Mysterious big data company Palantir is reportedly looking at an IPO - and could see a valuation of $41 billion

Palantir was also rumored to have been instrumental in finding Osama bin Laden. Karp said that he cannot comment on that.

"I'm super proud of our work and there are someday a lot of stories I'd like to tell," Karp said. "Hopefully I can talk about that one."
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