UK gives Palantir access to sensitive NHS patient data in £1 deal

Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and CIA-backed big data startup, Palantir
Emeh Joy

According to a contract which has been published online, the U.K.'s Nation Health Service (NHS) has given secretive U.S. tech firm, Palantir access to private personal data of millions of British citizens.

The data shared includes personal contact details, race, gender, occupation, religion, past criminal offences, physical and mental health conditions as well as political affiliations.

The contract, which is known as a data-sharing agreement was published on Friday by politics website OpenDemocracy and law firm, Foxglove alongside similar contracts with Microsoft, Google and U.K. A.I. start-up Faculty.

The OpenDemocracy editor-in-chief, Mary Fitzgerald and Foxglove founding director and U.S. lawyer, Cori Crider wrote in a blog post saying, "The contracts show that the companies involved, including Faculty and Palantir, were originally granted intellectual property rights (including the creation of database), and were allowed to train their models and profit off their unprecedented access to NHS data".

Data such as patient data is highly sought after and is valuable, especially for tech firms. The contracts showed that Palantir charged only £1 ($1.27) for its Foundry data management software to be used while Google offered "technical, advisory and other support" for free.

All the tech firms were enlisted by the British government to set up a national platform that would permit health officials to understand how the novel Coronavirus is spreading across the U.K. and also help them allocate resources appropriately.

Details of the data platform were first publicized in March, but the U.K. government had refused to publish all the essential data-sharing agreements following several freedom of information requests including the request by CNBC. The contracts were finally published last week following OpenDemocracy and Foxglove's threat to take legal action.

Palantir, which was co-founded by Peter Thiel, who is also an ally of the President of the United States, Donald Trump, has developed data trawling technology that intelligence agencies and governments use for surveillance. The technology also has the ability to spot suspicious patterns in public and private databases. Customers include the CIA, FBI and the U.S. Army.

Palantir who sees enormous opportunity in Europe now reportedly has more staff in London than it has in its headquarters in Palo Alto, California.

September last year, Palantir was looking to raise new funding valued at over $26 billion. This report is, according to Reuters. It is expecting to reach $1 billion in revenue this year.

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