In a landmark ruling, the German Federal Constitutional Court decisively declared the use of Palantir surveillance software by police in Hesse and Hamburg unconstitutional. The German Society for Civil Rights (GFF) had initially brought the case to court last year, questioning the program’s capacity for predictive policing and its capability to yield incorrect or biased decisions.
Hesse has been using this technology since 2017, provided by the US-based data analytics firm Palantir, which had been previously backed by intelligence agencies such as the CIA, FBI, and NSA. Eleven plaintiffs banded together on behalf of the case, arguing that the program – dubbed ‘Hessendata’ – created profiles of potential suspects before any crime had taken place. Furthermore, GFF claimed that Hesse and Hamburg weren’t being transparent about what sources were used for data collection and how much analysis was conducted by law enforcement.
The court found that Hessendata had been utilized thousands of times every year by these powers, but state officials argued that it is of paramount importance in preventing crime and simply draws on already existing data. Nevertheless, the ruling still stands and offers a vision into what new advancements may mean for crime prevention and data protection in the future.