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Palantir ignites dream of Yucatán tech hub, as well as protests at home

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Tech and state officials meet at Yucatán’s science park. Photo: Courtesy

A big-data company from Silicon Valley has put Yucatán on its short list for expansion.

The same company helps the U.S. government deport Mexicans and other undocumented immigrants.

Palo Alto-based Palantir Technologies announced that the company is building a research unit in Mexico. Mexico City and Guadalajara are also in the running.

Palantir provides data analytics to both banks and governments. Among its most controversial contracts is with ICE, the U.S. border enforcement arm, according to The Intercept. ICE reportedly pays Palantir US$51 million for their software, which gathers data on undocumented immigrants’ employment information, phone records and immigration history.

In August, Palantir was the subject of a large protest at the Burning Man event. Amazon was also criticized for providing cloud services to ICE.

Palantir has never reported a profit although Morgan Stanley this year valued the company at $6 billion.

Palantir was also pivotal for the International Atomic Energy Agency in verifying Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear arms agreement. Another government contract involved unifying U.S. spy agencies’ databases.

State officials are eager to snag such a big fish to position Yucatán as a key player in the world of technology.

The head of the Secretariat of Research, Innovation and Higher Education (Siies), Raúl Godoy Montañez, and the Executive Secretary of the Federal Authority for the Development of Special Economic Zones (ZEE), Enrique Huesca Fernández, received Palantir officials Matt Schrimpf and Pedro Robinson this week.

The unit could be built at Yucatán’s Scientific and Technological Park and later become an anchor investor in the Progreso EEZ, which would trigger the arrival of more global companies.

“We want them to see that it is safe to come with us, that we have all the conditions to produce from here and that is why we brought them to Yucatan, which along with Mexico City and Guadalajara, is one of the key players to achieve it,” Huesca Fernández said.

The company was founded by Peter Thiel, Nathan Gettings, Joe Lonsdale, Stephen Cohen, and Alex Karp in 2004. The company’s name is derived from The Lord of the Rings: a palantír is an artifact used to communicate with or see faraway parts of the world.

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