While teams of veteran relief volunteers and Palantir engineers deployed to Oklahoma to provide relief in the aftermath of one of the widest tornadoes ever recorded, the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee asked experts to testify at a panel addressing Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications. On June 4, Palantir’s Jason Payne joined Google’s Matthew Stepka and others at the Subcommittee hearing to discuss the importance of open data portals and information sharing in disaster scenarios.
“We encourage governmental organizations to adopt a Silicon Valley approach to data interoperability—put the data out publicly in a robust, standardized, well-documented interface and let other organizations come up with innovative ways to leverage the data,” Payne stated.
In January, Subcommittee Chairwoman Susan Brooks visited Silicon Valley to explore how new technologies are transforming emergency preparedness and response efforts. “On that trip we met with companies that were on the leading edge of new technology that are also contributing to the preparation, response and recovery from disasters,” she stated in her opening remarks. “Two of these amazing companies are here today: Google and Palantir.”
In his comments to the panel, Stepka noted that data sharing and relief efforts are hindered when agencies release information in non-machine readable formats. “Our goal is to make it easier to get people the actionable information they need when they need it most.” Acknowledging that while more needs to be done to make information easier to acquire, the panelists praised the data sharing efforts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service and the Census Bureau.
Payne’s testimony highlighted our dual commitment to open data and privacy protection. “We believe that public data such as locations of shelters and medical facilities, power status reports, and satellite imagery should be available to all organizations and citizens. We also believe that sensitive information, such as names, dates of birth, addresses, phone numbers, social media posts, financial information and certainly medical information should be shared with only those with need to know that information, even within an organization.”
Open data, privacy, and civil liberties are important to us and we are pleased and honored to be a part of the public conversation addressing these issues.