The headquarters of Palantir in Palo Alto (California - USA).
Palantir’s headquarters in Palo Alto (California – USA). (ANDREJ SOKOLOW / DPA)

It just might be the biggest vaccination campaign of all time. If a vaccine against Covid-19 is ever available, knowing that it will be impossible to immunize everyone at the same time, priorities will have to be set. This is where algorithms and big data come in.

The US federal government has planned to be helped by the company Palantir, a specialist in large-scale data processing. The solution used, called Tiberius, will analyze demographic, economic and health information to help local authorities know who to vaccinate first. It is planned to target first the areas where there is a high proportion of vulnerable people, the elderly and also where there are the most health professionals. Tiberius will help manage stocks very precisely and plan the amount of vaccine to be sent here and there. It is the same tool used by the United Nations World Food Program to distribute food where it is needed.

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Problem: Palantir smells of sulfur. This company based in Denver (Colorado), and co-founded by billionaire Peter Thiel, has developed extremely sophisticated, unparalleled tools that allow all kinds of data to be combined for analysis. Palantir has a long history of working with the US Department of Defense, which has largely contributed to its development. She rose to prominence by helping the US military find Osama Bin Laden. She also developed software to track illegal immigrants to the United States. Palantir software is of great interest to all intelligence services around the world, including France.

But Palantir takes into account opponents, who warn against possible drifts in terms of surveillance. Should we entrust public health data to such a company? Palantir defends itself by specifying that its Tiberius software will not have access to the personal health information of patients. Palantir says it does not collect data itself, but merely provides technical solutions for analysis to its customers.

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