American investor George Soros released a statement on Wednesday, expressing regret over his investment in data-analytics company Palantir Technologies, slamming its "business practices".
"SFM [Soros Fund Management LLC] does not approve of Palantir’s business practices," a representative for SFM stated. "SFM made this investment at a time when the negative social consequences of big data were less understood".
The statement outlined that SFM "would not make an investment in Palantir today".
The SFM investment in Palantir accounted for approximately 1% of the company's Class A shares, and, according to the statement, was made before Palantir became a publicly-traded company in 2012. The investment was made by a portfolio manager who is no longer part SFM.
"SFM has sold all shares in the company that it is not legally or contractually obliged to hold and will continue to sell shares as permitted", SFM added.
What's the Deal With Palantir?
Palantir was founded by PayPal's Peter Thiel, an outspoken supporter of Trump's 2016 campaign, and the firm has long been under fire for its work with the US government among other entities, particularly counter-terrorism efforts within US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Palantir's critics mainly focus on the software the company develops, maintains and sells to facilitate the deportation of immigrants, while also raising concerns about the widespread collection of data on private citizens.
In particular, US Representative Alexandria Ocazio-Cortez called for an investigation to be launched regarding the sale of Palantir products to foreign governments, notably that of Qatar, and the company's handling of personal data of some people amid the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the letter sent by Ocazio-Cortez to the US Security & Exchange Commission in September, Palantir was granted "unprecedented access" to Department of Health & Human Services data.
"Heightening our concern and the need for additional transparency, in August 2020, nearly three dozen current and former members of a federal health advisory committee [...] warned that the HHS Protect database, developed by Palantir, by which hospitals will circumvent the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and submit data directly to the platform, presents serious consequences on data integrity", the letter said.
Soros vs Big Tech
Soros, a billionaire American investor and an apologist toward what he describes as an open society, has recently been tough on big tech: two years ago, he slammed Google and Facebook for being "obstacles to innovation" and a "menace" to society, saying that the data these companies obtain is being exploited.
"They exploit the data they control, bundle the services they offer and use discriminatory pricing to keep for themselves more of the benefits that otherwise they would have to share with consumers", Soros said during a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos back in 2018.
A handful of conspiracy theories revolve around his personality, with some accusing him of plotting political revolutions, and describing him as a "pupper master". Soros is primarily targeted by conservatives who do not share his beliefs and call him a member of a "radical left".
The billionaire addressed conspiracies around him in a recent interview, noting that the fact that he has taken "controversial positions" on different issues has recently been "working against him".