Palantir is about a 15-minute walk from Stanford University. That stone’s-throw convenience helped one morning in June when a group of Stanford students perched on the third story of a parking garage across the street from the data-analytics company’s entrance and unfurled a banner to greet employees as they walked into work: “OUR SOFTWARE IS SO POWERFUL IT SEPARATES FAMILIES.”
The students were protesting Palantir software that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement uses to log information on asylum-seekers, helping the agency make arrests of undocumented family members who come to pick them up. The activists are members of a campus group called SLAP—Students for the Liberation of All People—that was founded by Stanford freshmen the winter after Donald Trump was elected president. At first, the group focused on concerns shared by leftist activists around the country: On the day of Trump’s inauguration, for example, members blocked the doors of a Wells Fargo near campus to protest the bank’s funding of the Dakota Access Pipeline and its history of racist lending practices. These days, though, SLAP has turned its attention to the industry in its backyard: Big Tech.