REPORT: Data Firm Responsible For Locating Osama Bin Laden Is Working With Trump To Take On Coronavirus Outbreak

China Daily via REUTERS

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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The data-mining company that was responsible for locating terrorist Osama bin Laden is reportedly working with the Trump administration on a bold plan to measure the coronavirus outbreak.

Palantir is aiding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to deploy geolocation technology as a way of tracking the outbreak, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. Other tech companies are providing similar services for the government, the report noted, citing documents it obtained.

Palantir helped military officials avoid roadside bombs in Iraq, as well as locate bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks.

Google and others are providing the government help locating people through their phones, as well as facial-recognition tech that can assist in finding people who contacted individuals who later tested positive for coronavirus, WSJ noted, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The WSJ did not explain why the sources spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Clearview AI, a facial recognition company that got in hot water in recent weeks for its work with the government, is also part of a task force brainstorming ways to help the government with coronavirus, or COVID-19, which began in Wuhan, China, in November 2019. Palantir said it’s putting privacy concerns first.

Clearview AI drew scrutiny after The New York Times reported in January that the company swiped 3 billion images from Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms. The NYT also noted that law enforcement agencies used the company’s technology to identify sex abuse victims.

A woman stands beside the logo of the U.S. multinational technology company Google during the VivaTech trade fair (Viva Technology), on May 24, 2018 in Paris. (ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images)

A woman stands beside the logo of the U.S. multinational technology company Google during the VivaTech trade fair (Viva Technology), on May 24, 2018 in Paris. (ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images)

“Data-driven responses to the Covid-19 pandemic must treat good data governance, including privacy and civil-liberties protections, as guiding concentrations along with the mission objectives, not as afterthoughts,” Courtney Bowman, head of Palantir’s Global Privacy and Civil Liberties Engineering team, said in a press statement.

Privacy experts are apparently worried. (RELATED: Trump And Big Tech Put Their Differences Aside, Brainstorm Ways Google, Facebook Can Confront Coronavirus)

“We understand that given we are in this crisis, that some temporary adjustment of our digital liberties may be necessary, however it’s really important that those adjustments be temporary,” said Adam Schwartz, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group advocating for civil rights in the digital age.

Palantir and Clearview AI’s work comes after reports show that Google, Facebook and other tech companies met with members of the Trump administration on March 11 to hammer out a strategy to confront the outbreak.

Microsoft, IBM and Facebook had a phone-to-video meeting with top officials in the Office of Science and Technology Policy regarding ways artificial intelligence can help medical researchers develop a vaccine.

They also discussed how to tackle online misinformation on the virus, known as COVID-19. Neither the CDC nor the White House have responded to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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