NHS faces legal challenge over data deal with controversial Silicon Valley company Palantir | Science & Tech News
According to Sky News, the NHS is facing a legal challenge over its data deal with controversial Silicon Valley company Palantir.
Notorious for its close ties with security and immigration services in the United States, Palantir signed its first contract to process NHS data in March last year for the nominal amount of £ 1.
The healthcare lawsuit announced today could force him to reconsider the contract, which was renewed in December 2020 and is now worth £ 23.5m.
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The lawsuit is the most recent procurement challenge during the pandemic, which has become a highly controversial issue in recent months. Critics accuse the government of preferring their own contacts.
It is a series of internal government emails that were exposed by The bureau for investigative journalism and Sky News reveals that prior to the pandemic, there were high-level meetings between Palantir and top government officials and the NHS that raise questions about the role of personal relationships in procurement.
The lawsuit alleges that NHS England failed to take into account the impact of the renewed contract on patients and the public through a new data protection impact assessment – a claim that the healthcare sector rejects.
“This is a huge tech company trying to create a permanent bridgehead in the NHS and we believe people have the right to know and discuss about it before it’s too late,” said Cori Crider, co-founder by Foxglove. what brings the case on behalf of the news site openDemocracy.
An NHS spokesman said: “The company is an accredited public sector supplier in the UK. The NHS completed a privacy impact assessment in April 2020 and an update will be released in due course.”
Although Palantir doesn’t store health data itself, Foxglove claims that the NHS is putting public trust at risk by using its data analytics software for tasks like getting vaccines up and running.
NHS insiders say the Palantir tool has been extremely useful in gathering the disparate healthcare data streams, but Ms. Crider said the NHS is “naive” to believe its relationship with the much-criticized company would not damage the fragile trust among ethnic minorities.
“The government’s vaccination campaigns teach us that there is no public health without public trust,” Ms. Crider told Sky News, citing criticism of Palantir by human rights groups for their work with US police forces and immigration and customs control as possible causes of discomfort.
The lawsuit is a treasure trove of internal UK government documents submitted to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism under the Freedom of Information Act. It shows how Palantir courted senior NHS and government officials long before he was awarded a healthcare contract.
The emails indicate that Louis Mosley, the head of Palantir in the UK, hosted a dinner discussion in July 2019, chaired by Conservative colleague David Prior, chairman of NHS England.
They drank watermelon cocktails, which Lord Prior was later worth £ 60.
The next evening, Mr. Mosley emailed Lord Prior thanking him for “a fascinating and thought-provoking discussion”. He added: “I am more convinced than ever that the UK is uniquely capable of driving the next generation of medical discoveries and treatments.”
Hours later, Lord Prior replied, encouraging Mr. Mosley to get in touch “if you can see how you can help us structure and curate our data”.
Despite this noncommittal reply, Mr. Mosley remained in contact with Lord Prior. In early October, the Palantir chief met with Matthew Gould, the former diplomat who had been appointed head of the NHSX. “A very positive meeting,” he said by email to Lord Prior and invited him to a demonstration at Palantir’s headquarters in San Francisco in January.
Lord Prior accepted the offer. On January 14, 2020, he and a small team met Palantir’s Healthcare Life Sciences Brain Trust, a group of around 10 engineers and health scientists from the technology company.
According to “quick rough notes” compiled by an official the day after the meeting, staff believed that Palantir’s general purpose data software was “aimed solely at the UK Heath Care market”.
Palantir and NHS England declined to comment on the content of the emails, but spokesmen for both organizations insisted that the meetings had nothing to do with contracting.
Ms. Crider reacted with skepticism and said: “What is the watermelon cocktail for, if not for favor and influence to curry?”
She said the emails raised questions about the contract, which was first granted to Palantir in March 2020. This is an immediate response to an “unprecedented challenge” and not a long-term agreement.
The emails reveal the extensive contacts between Palantir and the British government. The week after his meeting with Lord Prior, Moseley met with UK trade official Antonia Romeo, which he hosted at the World Economic Forum in the Palantir Pavilion in Davos.
According to the briefings prepared for Ms. Romeo, who was then permanent secretary of the Department of International Trade (DIT), the “objective” of the meeting was to emphasize that the UK is “a great place for Palantir to grow its software business”.
DIT officials also said they wanted to “understand how we can support them [Palantir’s] Growth in the UK “and want to know” how we can help with recruitment, identify properties for expansion, plan visas “.
A DIT spokesperson denied that there was anything unusual about these exchanges, saying, “DIT officials work with a wide variety of companies as part of their responsibility to support UK trade and investment.”
However, critics point out that Palantir’s promotion of investments is different, as the main customer is often the government itself.
“The whole point of this exchange is for senior officials to bend back to pick up Palantir and not ask critical questions about how their technologies will transform the way services are delivered,” said technology researcher Rachel Coldicutt.
Since the NHS’s first announcement of the NHS contract with Palantir, its terms have been expanded to cover a much wider range of issues, including Brexit, flu shots and the ability to “track and view changes in workforce data over time”.
Palantir defenders said this showed how effective the software was, but data policy experts warned that the government needed to be more transparent about the changes in order to maintain public confidence.
“The government will miss out on all opportunities that could arise to better serve the public through the use of data and new technologies if it does not talk about what is acceptable to the public and with the public,” said technology researcher Gavin Freeguard.
Matt Hancock’s new plan for health and welfare reform, which he unveiled earlier this month, contains extensive proposals for greater use of health data. It describes the NHS ‘work with Palantir as one of its “accomplishments”.
Last week, the Minister of Health was found to have broken the law by failing to release details of coronavirus-related contracts worth billions of dollars within the required timeframe.
Mr Hancock defended the decision, saying he had made fighting the virus a priority over transparency, but Labor urged him to commit to more transparency in order to regain public confidence.
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