FBI blooper allowed agents to use Palantir to see restricted material

FBI

FBI investigators have used software from Palantir Technologies Inc to access restricted evidence they were not supposed to see, according to a letter from a U.S. prosecutor and a spokeswoman for the software firm.

The letter, sent by Manhattan’s acting federal prosecutor, Audrey Strauss, to U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel, said her office had discovered several FBI employees had improperly accessed evidence gathered in a case because the data had mistakenly been tagged as unrestricted when it was loaded into Palantir’s system.

Palantir software marketed to law enforcement agencies is typically used to organize and cross-reference vast troves of data, including case files, arrest records and raw evidence.

The data had been meant to be segregated so that it was available only to those prosecuting the case. However, the error meant four FBI employees unconnected to the prosecution were able to view the data for over a 15-month period, Strauss said.

Strauss said her office and the FBI were looking into the possibility that other unidentified cases could similarly have been affected.

Michael German, a former FBI agent and a fellow at the New York-based Brennan Center for Justice, said “unauthorized access or use, even if just by FBI employees or other law enforcement officials, creates a substantial risk to the integrity of the evidence and the privacy of innocent people.”

In an email, Palantir spokeswoman Lisa Gordon said its platform was not to blame for the mishap and had strong access and security controls. She added that the FBI “has rigorous protocols established to protect search warrant returns, which, in this case, the end user did not follow.”

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