Cybersecurity

Palantir's GSA pricing info posted on Hacker News site

Federal pricing information for software and services sold by a big-data company known for its relationships with the CIA and the National Security Agency has made its way onto a social news website for hackers.

A report on the open-source Public Intelligence website said the information was posted on Hacker News on Sept. 17. The General Services Administration downplayed any controversy surrounding the disclosure by saying that all federal vendor information is available on its eLibrary portal.

Furthermore, a GSA spokeswoman said the data on Hacker News is not even accurate.

She said the information does not contain the actual prices paid by customer agencies. The listed prices are those negotiated by GSA and used by federal customers to write task orders. The actual prices paid might be lower, she added.

The incident underscores the need for GSA's plan to implement category management and gather more detailed prices-paid information, though that information would probably not be linked to federal customers' names, she said.

Hacker News is not a deep Web, cybercriminal site, as its name might imply. Venture capitalist Paul Graham, who co-founded Viaweb in the mid-1990s and eventually sold it to Yahoo, launched the site in 2007 for computer programmers and entrepreneurs.

The Sept. 17 post includes a price list from the GSA Advantage ordering system for Palantir Technologies' Gotham and Metropolis products, as well as the Palantir license agreement and terms of service.

Gotham, a big-data analysis product aimed at the government market, facilitates focused data mining that can be used in terrorism threat analysis and other applications. Metropolis software is used for data integration, information management and quantitative analytics.

Responses on Hacker News ranged from speculation on the federal government's potentially dark uses of the technology to admiration for GSA's negotiating skills. One commenter noted that the pricing "wasn't that out of line" with other enterprise software prices. Another gave grudging respect to GSA for its negotiating capabilities, calling it a "tough customer."

Palo Alto, Calif.-based Palantir was initially backed by funding from the U.S. intelligence community's In-Q-Tel venture capital firm and co-founded by Peter Thiel, the entrepreneur, venture capitalist and hedge fund manager who co-founded PayPal and is now Palantir's chairman.

As the United States gears up to respond to the threat of the Islamic State group, Thiel told the Bloomberg news service on Sept. 16 that the company's technology has likely been used to stop major terrorist attacks on western countries.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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