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Lesbians Who Tech ends sponsorship deal with Palantir over ‘human rights’ issues

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LGBTQ tech group Lesbians Who Tech has ended a sponsorship deal with controversial big data firm Palantir, citing human rights concerns.

Palantir, which provides data-analysis tools for law enforcement, federal clients, financial firms, and other industries, had paid to be a sponsor for Lesbians Who Tech’s New York leadership summit in mid-September, but the organization has decided to sever ties with the company and return its $15,000 in sponsorship money.

Lesbians Who Tech founder and CEO Leanne Pittsford told Business Insider in an email that her organization had been contacted by community members about their concerns “around Palantir’s participation with the job fair because of the recent news that the company’s software has been used to aid ICE in effort to gather, store, and search for data on undocumented immigrants, and reportedly playing a role in workplace raids.”

She added: “This news around the software in addition to the widely publicized raids, inhumane detention centers, and family separation tactics has created heightened concern for various human rights issues. LGBTQ issues are human rights issues, and we must stand united on these issues that impact marginalized peoples.”

Lesbians Who Tech’s decision illustrates how Palantir’s brand is growing increasingly toxic in Silicon Valley over its work with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that has purportedly aided the agency’s deportations of immigrants. It has been repeatedly targeted with protests, including at its Palo Alto, California headquarters but recently renewed its ICE contract, which is worth nearly $50 million.

An archived version of Lesbians Who Tech’s website from August 20, showing Palantir listed as a sponsor. Its logo has since been removed.
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Meanwhile, Palantir workers are split internally over the company’s work for ICE, with some calling for the contracts to end and expressing increasing distrust and frustration with Palantir’s leadership, Business Insider previously reported.

In June, the Privacy Law Scholars Conference based at UC Berkeley in California said it was ending a sponsorship deal with Palantir that had run since 2011 “due to the discomfort of many in the community … with the company’s practices.”

With Lesbians Who Tech also now refusing to work with Palantir, the company may find it harder to conduct industry outreach and recruitment, and pressure may continue to build on other organizations that continue to work with it.

Leanne Pittsford added: “We do however want to support LGBTQ women and non-binary folks who work at Palantir and encourage any of them who want to attend to please reach out to us directly. Our goal is always to support LQBTQ folks in tech.”

Palantir did not respond to requests for comment.

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