Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. They laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work digging out the truth. Please support this independent journalism today by donating to our critical Fall Campaign. We cannot do it without you. Thank you. -- Craig Brown, Co-founder

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

presser on Tuesday

World Food Program (WFP) chief information officer Enrica Porcari and Palantir executive vice president Josh Harris announced the partnership on Tuesday. (Photo: WFP)

'Breathtaking and Terrifying': UN Food Relief Agency Partners With CIA-Funded Software Firm Palantir

Data privacy advocates decried the $45 million deal as "horribly irresponsible and potentially incredibly harmful."

Jessica Corbett

The CIA-funded California software firm Palantir Technologies and the World Food Program (WFP) have announced a five-year $45 million partnership that data privacy and human rights advocates are describing as "breathtaking and terrifying" as well as "horribly irresponsible and potentially incredibly harmful."

"The recipients of WFP aid are already in extremely vulnerable situations; they should not be put at additional risk of harm or exploitation."
—Privacy International

The partnership, according to a joint statement released Tuesday, builds on a pilot project that allowed the United Nations agency to analyze aid decisions using a Palantir application that pulls together data on nutritional values, sourcing locations, delivery times, and food costs.

While WFP executive director David Beasley claimed that "our work with Palantir will save time and money so we can more effectively and efficiently feed 90 million people on any given day across the globe," critics raised alarm about the company's record and warned the deal threatens the rights of people already living in precarious conditions.

"This data is highly sensitive, and it is essential that proper protections are put in place, to limit the data gathered, transferred, and processed," noted Privacy International. "The recipients of WFP aid are already in extremely vulnerable situations; they should not be put at additional risk of harm or exploitation."

WFP's chief information officer Enrica Porcari insisted at a press conference that personal information won't be at risk because "there is no data-sharing" with Palantir under the deal—but Privacy International warned that with its research, "we've seen examples of systems that are produced in agreements such as the one between WFP and Palantir increasing risks to the people the systems are aiming to benefit."

A humanitarian data analyst, who requested anonymity due to work relationships, told the news outlet IRIN: "WFP is jumping headlong into something they don't understand, without thinking through the consequences, and the U.N. has put no frameworks in place to regulate it."

Palantir was co-founded by billionaire and Republican donor Peter Thiel—a supporter of President Donald Trump—with seed money from the CIA's venture capital arm. It has, among other things, provided software to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to help the agency deport migrants.

"It is the height of irony that the very company that faced direct criticism in its role facilitating U.S. immigration authorities' human rights abuses is now promoting itself as trustworthy of working in humanitarian aid," a Privacy International spokesperson told IRIN.

Tom Fisher, a Privacy International researcher, added on Twitter: "The scale of this WFP/Palantir partnership... It's breathtaking, and terrifying."

Daniel Scarnecchia, a researcher at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative's Signal Program on Human Security and Technology, pointed out in a series of tweets that the news "raises a fundamental question of why we collect data as a sector. What are our values, and to what ends are we seeking to make people legible, and to whom?"

Scarnecchia was also critical of WFP's decision to work with Palantir, and suggested the agreement could lay the groundwork for the data-mining firm to expand its footprint in the humanitarian aid sector.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Schumer Endorses 'Inspiring Community Leader' India Walton as Buffalo's Next Mayor

The U.S. Senate majority leader's move comes as some key New York Democrats refuse to back the democratic socialist.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Who Will You Throw Overboard?' Manchin Targeted for Trying to Sink Democratic Agenda

West Virginians gathered at the senator's yacht to demand that he stop blocking the "popular and needed" Build Back Better package.

Jessica Corbett ·


'We Shouldn't Do It at All': Manchin Admits He's the Enemy of Democrats' Ambitions

The right-wing West Virginia Democrat and fossil fuel investor has previously confessed his intent to quash his own party's sweeping $3.5 trillion Build Back Better package.

Brett Wilkins ·


After Getting 'Stealth Bailout' During Pandemic, US Corporations Try to Kill Proposed Tax Hikes

"When it's time to finally put workers first, big businesses are spending millions to maintain their advantage and preserve the status quo," said Kyle Herrig of Accountable.US.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Disgraceful': Just 9 Republicans Join With Dems to Hold Steve Bannon in Criminal Contempt

The vote "reveals just how far the Republican Party has fallen" since Trump took control as GOP's de facto leader, said one pro-democracy advocate.

Jon Queally ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo