Site Visit to Palantir’s New Denver Headquarters

Last November the Denver Business Journal featured an interview with Palantir leadership discussing their decision to leave the Bay Area and relocate to a community of “critical thinkers” that “accepts the company’s broad range of initiatives.”  I’ve written extensively on the topic of data surveillance of poor and vulnerable communities in the past. Below are some excerpts related to this video.

How Pay For Success Preys On The Poor

One of the biggest things we’re up against, and something few people are talking about, is social impact investing and pay for success finance. Within the hollowed out shell of the welfare state, which admittedly was always inadequate and used for purposes of racialized social control, global finance has built a new machine that will use predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and wearable and screen-based technologies to monitor the global poor and profit from their misery.

This effort is being carried out in partnership with the non-profit sector, higher education, think tanks, and global foundations. Many involved identify as liberal, even progressive. Successful resistance will require stopping Trump, the Koch brothers, and ALEC, as well as a corporate, militarized Blue Wave that has every intention of stabilizing late-stage capitalism with technocratic “evidence-based” solutions. Make no mistake; this is a fully bipartisan enterprise.

Continue reading here.

Housing Insecurity As Investment Market

The number of unhoused people in the United States generally, and the Bay Area in particular, is growing exponentially. Gentrification, displacement, lack of affordable housing and housing insecurity brought about by health circumstances or unlivable wages for gig economy work leave many in dire need of shelter. But if housing, particularly supportive housing, becomes a social impact market, people needing shelter will be integrated into a massive data collection system. Being out of the elements will not be seen a human right. Rather, the data of unhoused people will become raw material to expand the impact investment machine. The Welcome Home social impact bond was launched by Santa Clara County in 2015 in consultation with Third Sector Capital Partners. The program, which offers “evidence-based” housing-first services was jump-started with a “disruptive innovation” grant from The Health Trust, whose former CEO Fred Ferrer does outcomes-based consulting and serves on the board of Rocketship Academy Charter Schools, to Step Up Silicon Valley, a program of Catholic Charities of Santa Clara. The deal evaluator for the project is Palantir, a company that offers its software pro bono under a “Philanthropy Engineering,” arrangement. The trade-off? Well, they’re taking “free” services from a company that does a lot of business with the Department Homeland Security and sells predictive policing software.

Continue reading here.

The Catholic Church and Pay For Success

Last Thursday evening I joined my friend Jennifer Bennetch for an informational picket and revocation of consent outside the offices of Project Home on Fairmount Avenue in Philadelphia. This forty-minute clip includes my revocation of consent on site followed by a twenty-minute discussion providing context with slides. Jenn’s astute, on-the-ground analysis of what is happening with the Philadelphia Housing Authority and non-profit partners is the final ten minutes of this video.

Jennifer died in February. She was an amazing human being.

Watch the video here.

“Public Interest” Technology – Data Surveillance of Poor Communities

Step Up Silicon Valley (SUSV) and Catholic Charities received $150,000 from the Health Trust’s disruption grant program for development of the pay for success model. SVCF and Santa Clara County each contributed an additional $75,000. Step Up Silicon Valley was created by Catholic Charities as a “poverty lab” to catalyze systems change in the social service sector of Silicon Valley. Its “1,000 Out of Poverty” effort became a testbed to refine elements of the program, including the “Self-Sufficiency Measure,” a “scorecard” tracking the “progress” of low-income clients in the areas of food, housing, healthcare, education and income. Such systems of consolidated data-tracking are a prerequisite for outcomes-based contracting to scale. SUSV worked with Community Technology Alliance (CTA), a non-profit set up to harness technology to create data-driven solutions to poverty. Together they customized the tool, which is based on one created in Arizona. CTA’s board members are embedded in the tech community and certainly have a financial stake in the transition of the nonprofit social sector to a data-driven, market-based model.

Continue reading here.

Digital Identity Tied To Public Assistance

We are seeing a first wave of digital driver’s licenses rolling out now. Idemia is pushing “augmented identity.” The pandemic is likely to speed up adoption. GAVI, a Gates Foundation-funded partner in ID2020, is piloting a program that combines vaccination with a digital identity. Another ID2020 effort, MyPass, backed by Bloomberg Philanthropies in Austin, assigns Blockchain identity to unhoused people to help them keep track of things like medical records. This program doesn’t require anyone to be “chipped.” The first phase operates using a simple QR code that is printed out and laminated. Though I expect eventually biometric data will be attached to the record.

Continue reading here.

Testimony Provided To Philadelphia’s “Poverty Committee” on Pay For Success, Housing, and Municipal ID

I express concern about Philadelphia’s municipal ID program, and how it could evolve into a “federated citizen” or digital identity system to track “impact” for the purposes of investors. I note that we must understand Philadelphia’s deep poverty as the legacy of structural racism and recognize that continued automation of work will lead to a world of increasingly concentrated wealth and power. In this world those at the helm of the finance and technology sectors will rule over the masses through the Internet of Things, Big Data, and predictive analytics. I state that pay for success finance is already being piloted in Philadelphia by Project Home, and that Sister Mary Scullion gave welcoming remarks at the first Total Impact conference in Philadelphia last year. Omar Woodard of the Green Light Fund was a speaker at this year’s gathering, and Tayyib Smith, a Green Light Fund board member, serves on the housing subcommittee. A partner in this initiative is the Reinvestment Fund, lead investor in several “pay for success” deals including the Welcome Home social impact bond in Santa Clara, CA, which I wrote about here, and the Family Stability program in Connecticut, which I wrote about here. The Reinvestment Fund collaborates with Palantir (predictive policing, ICE contracts) in their deal evaluation. See Santa Clara’s Data-Mining Deal With Palantir Draws Scrutiny From Privacy Advocates, covered by SanJoseInside in August of 2018.

Watch testimony here.

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