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Is data mining company Palantir's software behind PRISM surveillance? Palantir says no

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Earlier today, Talking Points Memo surfaced a new theory about the NSA and FBI's PRISM surveillance program: that it originated with data mining software company Palantir. "Palantir has a software package called 'Prism': 'Prism is a software component that lets you quickly integrate external databases into Palantir,'" wrote an anonymous source. "That sounds like exactly the tool you'd want if you were trying to find patterns in data from multiple companies."

Palantir, which offers its services to a variety of industries, is well-known for its national security work. Likely coincidentally, it even once proposed a smear campaign against journalist Glenn Greenwald, who released information about both PRISM and a court order requiring Verizon to turn over call logs. But the company insists its Prism program has nothing to do with surveillance.

"Palantir's Prism platform is completely unrelated to any US government program of the same name," the company told us. "Prism is Palantir's name for a data integration technology used in the Palantir Metropolis platform (formerly branded as Palantir Finance). This software has been licensed to banks and hedge funds for quantitative analysis and research." Palantir's overview of the program describes it as a way to integrate databases into its software.

"This software has been licensed to banks and hedge funds for quantitative analysis and research."

So far, none of the companies named in the PRISM leak has given us a statement either admitting or denying Palantir's involvement. Yahoo and AOL referred us to previous statements about PRISM, reiterating that they do not provide government agencies with access to their servers. As Talking Points Memo's source points out, of course, that technically means they could be granting access to a third party like Palantir. Likewise, Palantir isn't explicitly ruling out involvement with the NSA (which has been openly identified previously as a client) — but it is saying that the Prism program isn't part of any surveillance effort.