At Palantir we have a very interesting (and probably unique) position called the ‘Civil Liberties Engineer’ (or more properly a Privacy & Civil Liberties Engineer or PCL Engineer). Describing the role of the PCL engineer can be approached in two ways – from the top-down or the bottom-up.
Let’s start with top-down. In many ways, Civil Libertarians and Security Hawks are natural antagonists; in practice however, we find a strange allegiance in that they both tend to accept the presupposition that security versus privacy & civil liberties is ultimately zero sum. One of Palantir’s founding principles is that this belief is a fallacy. It is possible to achieve security while at the same time protecting our privacy & civil liberties.This is the core ethos of the PCL engineer and the fundamental driver for everything they do. PCL engineers are ‘action-oriented’ meaning they search for solutions and paths forward rather than problems and reasons to stop; it's easy to stand on the sideline and lob opinions - it's much harder (and more rewarding) to actually wade into the fray and try to improve the world.
Looking at the PCL engineer from the bottom-up, we find that they have three primary responsibilities. The first is understanding the nature of Palantir’s deployments and making sure that our Forward Deployed Engineers (FDEs) are considering the relevant PCL factors associated with their projects as well as the various ways our technology can mitigate those risks while still enabling the mission. This is a varied task and requires deep technical knowledge as well as creativity and empathy. The second responsibility is external communication. PCL engineers spend a great deal of time engaging with the PCL community in the US and abroad to learn about the pressing PCL issues of the day and hopefully contributing to that conversation. PCL engineers try to educate this community on the nature of our technology and our approach to solving it so we can understand if we are making the best choices as we approach these issues. The third responsibility of the PCL engineer is internal communication. This is the role of educator and sounding board. PCL engineers work closely with the Palantir community to help them understand the nature of the PCL risks associated with their work and also to hear their concerns and think about ways to address them.