Ahead of his company’s closely-watched initial public offering, Palantir Technologies CEO and co-founder Alex Karp issued a strong rebuke of Silicon Valley, chiding technology’s “elite” for their insularity and being disconnected from real world issues.
"The engineering elite of Silicon Valley may know more than most about building software. But they do not know more about how society should be organized or what justice requires," Karp wrote in a blistering opening salvo.
Karp has made the argument before. He once criticized the "increasing intolerance and monoculture" of Silicon Valley in an interview with Axios, and recently relocated Palantir's headquarters from Palo Alto to Denver, Colorado.
In the filing, Karp acknowledged that his company seems "to share fewer and fewer of the technology sector's values and commitments."
Specifically, the CEO said Palantir has "repeatedly turned down opportunities to sell, collect, or mine data." Without identifying other Silicon Valley companies explicitly, Karp added that "some of the largest in the world, have built their entire businesses on doing just that."
Palantir was founded in 2003 following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, with the purpose of building software to aid the U.S. intelligence community in counterterrorism operations.
Broadsides at ‘products for sale’
In the filing, Karp, defended the company's work with the U.S. government and law enforcement agencies, writing in the filing’s first sentence that “our welfare and security depend on effective software."
Karp proceeded to call out unnamed large consumer internet companies with "access to the most intimate aspects of our lives," noting that the technology for those companies is so far ahead of any political control or governance.
While he didn’t mention any by name, Facebook (FB), Google (GOOG), Amazon (AMZN) and Apple (AAPL) have all come under fire from regulators and privacy advocates over market dominance and privacy concerns, given the amount of intimate data they control and how it gets used.
However, Palantir has come under intense scrutiny for providing support to immigration and intelligence agencies — something Karp defended without apology.
"Software projects with our nation's defense and intelligence agencies, whose missions are to keep us safe, have become controversial, while companies built on advertising dollars are commonplace,” he wrote.
“For many consumer internet companies, our thoughts and inclinations, behaviors and browsing habits, are the product for sale. The slogans and marketing of many of the Valley's largest technology firms attempt to obscure this simple fact,” he wrote.
Karp added that the public and the tech sector have been in a mostly consensual “bargain” where the "value of the products and services available seemed to outweigh the invasions of privacy that enabled their rise."
He added: "Americans will remain tolerant of the idiosyncrasies and excesses of the Valley only to the extent that technology companies are building something substantial that serves the public interest. The corporate form itself — that is, the privilege to engage in private enterprise — is a product of the state and would not exist without it.”
He concluded: "Our software is used to target terrorists and to keep soldiers safe. If we are going to ask someone to put themselves in harm's way, we believe that we have a duty to give them what they need to do their job. We have chosen sides, and we know that our partners value our commitment. We stand by them when it is convenient, and when it is not."
Julia La Roche is a Correspondent for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.