big data crime

The assassin: Tracked and caught

In February 2011, Jaime Zapata, a special agent for U.S. Homeland Security, was gunned down on a highway in Mexico. U.S. law enforcement responded quickly. There were masses of data on the Mexican cartel suspected of the murder -- tapped phone calls, e-mails, videos, and interrogation notes -- but everything was in different formats, stored in different databases. Investigators turned to Palantir, a company founded by PayPal veterans. Palantir creates software tools that can rapidly integrate data from multiple sources into a single resource. A week after Zapata's death, with a record from Palantir, investigators found the chief suspect in the shooting: Zeta cartel member Julian Zapata Espinoza, a.k.a. El Piolin or Tweety Bird (pictured, yellow shirt). Palantir's tools have since aided the arrests of 700 suspects and the confiscation of 467 kilos of cocaine, 64 pounds of methamphetamines, and 282 weapons.

- Last updated September 10 2012 06:07 PM ET
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