Online freedom advocates blasted the Electronic Frontier Foundation, on Monday, angry that the digital rights group accepted money for its annual awards ceremony from Palantir, a secretive data mining software firm involved in a convoluted plot to bring down Wikileaks.
Palantir, which has made hundreds of millions of dollars selling high-end data analysis tools to secretive govenerment agencies, was exposed in February as being party to an attempt to win a federal contract to wage a disinformation and hacking campaign against Wikileaks and its supporters, including journalists and Anonymous.
The company is the premier sponsor of the EFF’s award ceremony Tuesday.
In a presentation unearthed by Anonymous hackers, someone at Palantir used the company’s powerful software to create a visualization of a Wikileaks support network. That network included New York Times reporter Jennifer 8. Lee and Salon.com commentator Glenn Greenwald – that despite Palantir’s promises that it has “voluntarily develeoped new technologies and a rigourous frame work to protect privacy.”
Palantir, along with three other firms, were seeking to get money from the government to take action against Wikileaks, in a scheme that backfired disastrously.
Mike Godwin, who served as EFF’s first general counsel in the 1990s, tweeted: ”I simply have no explanation for the Palantir/EFF thing. I don’t have language for it.”
Godwin was hardly alone.
A group of Anonymous members issued a “statement of concern,” which read, in part:
Palantir was involved in ‘Team Themis’ which attempted to undermine Wikileaks, and its supporters (including Anonymous and Glenn Greenwald), through a campaign of strategic ‘attacks’. In agreeing to accept Palantir as one of its sponsors the EFF has called into question the legitimacy of its role as a ‘defender of civil liberties in a digital age’.
As for the EFF, spokeswoman Rebecca Jeschke says the money doesn’t mean anything.
“Palantir wanted to support the Pioneer Awards and we were happy with the contribution. As with all our sponsors, and for that matter all our contributors to EFF, it doesn’t mean we endorse them,” Jeschke told Wired. “They offered a contribution – I don’t think that should legitimize them or delegitimize them in anyone’s opinion. People should make their own decisions about Palantir.”