Palantir: considerations over knowledge company poised to be ‘operating system’ of NHS | NHS

For an organization tipped to give you the NHS’s new overarching knowledge platform, it’s suitable that Palantir Technologies is called after an all-seeing orb.

Palantir, which pulls its title from the robust crystal balls deployed in JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, is the favorite to win a £360m contract for the NHS’s Federated Data Platform (FDP). Covering the entirety from person sufferers’ knowledge to vaccination programmes, ready lists and scientific trials, the FDP will combination knowledge from a couple of assets and other codecs directly to a unmarried platform.

According to a file despatched to doable bidders for the five-year contract, it’ll “provide access to real-time data to enable decision-making to better coordinate care”. Speaking at London Tech Week closing week, the well being secretary, Sajid Javid, stated: “This is the perfect moment to bring data together and reap the benefits.”

The formidable scope of the platform has alarmed marketing campaign teams, who worry for affected person confidentiality, privateness and information safety, however the identification of the frontrunner has additionally brought about fear.

US-based Palantir was once co-founded by way of Peter Thiel, considered one of Silicon Valley’s few high-profile Donald Trump supporters. The $15.6bn (£12.7bn) corporate has been criticised for its paintings with the United States immigration company, in addition to its intelligence provider and defence contracts. It already works carefully with NHS England by way of offering device that processes knowledge for quite a few functions together with take-up of Covid-19 vaccines and managing the post-pandemic jump again in optionally available care (surgical procedure or remedy booked prematurely).

But the chance of it putting in place an overarching knowledge platform for NHS England has alarmed Foxglove, a UK criminal marketing campaign team that makes a speciality of duty within the generation trade. Foxglove’s considerations, and the ones of identical organisations, centre on two sides: the security of affected person knowledge, and the character of the corporate that may arrange the knowledge framework and search to take advantage of it.

“A firm like that has no place being the ‘operating system for the NHS’ – period,” says Cori Crider, a director at Foxglove, who provides that the corporate “makes no secret of its desire to keep profiting from war and surveillance”.

Crider provides that there’s now not sufficient public details about the FDP, even though paperwork were circulated amongst would-be bidders. According to the paperwork, the principle five-year contract for FDP is price £360m and the platform will ship £3.6bn in advantages over 10 years.

“We’ve got deeper concerns about this Federated Data Platform,” says Crider. “How much confidential patient data is going to be swept in, who is going to have access, and on what terms? It’s clearly not being built just for your GP – it will serve a host of other government officials. We’ve sent a legal letter seeking answers, and received almost no detail in return.”

Phil Booth, founding father of medConfidential, which campaigns for confidentiality in healthcare, says Palantir is the favorite for the contract as it already carries out one of the most paintings envisioned within the FDP.

“Palantir is already doing many of the things which are going to be done by the platform. To move away from something that is already deeply embedded into NHS England’s systems would be a significant shift.”

He provides that it’s “crazy” to amalgamate such all kinds of NHS purposes right into a unmarried monolithic gadget. “NHS England proposes swapping out all of the complex data flows across a whole host of life-critical systems just by buying one company’s product off the shelf. This single platform, the idea of one thing to rule them all, is odd. You cannot just slap in all the data and expect the entire ecosystem’s architectures to align and integrate.”

Palantir was once co-founded in 2003 by way of Thiel, 54, a co-founder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook. Some preliminary investment got here from In-Q-Tel, the project capital arm of the Central Intelligence Agency – the United States international intelligence provider – reflecting the corporate’s origins as a device to battle terrorism. Palantir’s device systems procedure large quantities of information, enabling purchasers to spot in the past undetectable patterns and connections or, as the corporate places it, convert “massive amounts of information into knowledge that reflects their world”.

It is deeply embedded in the United States public sector. Other US executive purchasers come with the tax-collecting Internal Revenue Service, the United States monetary watchdog and the Department for Health and Human Services. It additionally has a freelance with the United States military to modernise its battlefield intelligence gadget and is reportedly running with the Pentagon on Project Maven, its synthetic intelligence programme.

It is helping a number of western governments battle terrorism and governments account for greater than part of its earnings, with purchasers together with the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence. Despite surging revenues – up 41% to $1.5bn closing yr – it has posted annual internet losses of $520m, $1.2bn and $580m since 2019.

Its maximum arguable contracts lately were with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE). It works with an ICE subdivision referred to as Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). HSI tackles drug smuggling, cash laundering and human trafficking, amongst different types of illegal activity that may spoil US immigration and customs regulations.

Palantir says it hasn’t ever had a freelance with the ICE unit liable for deportations, Enforcement and Removal Operations or ERO. But a US immigrant rights team, Mijente, says its generation performed a task in raids on food-processing crops in Mississippi in 2019 by which 680 undocumented immigrants – described as “removable aliens” within the legitimate press free up – had been arrested.

Thiel, 54, is a libertarian billionaire who has used his fortune to give a boost to rightwing applicants in the United States, together with Trump’s a success bid for the presidency in 2016. His different Republican endorsements come with Hillbilly Elegy writer JD Vance, who’s working for the Senate in Ohio, and Blake Masters, a senatorial midterm candidate for Arizona who warns of “widespread wokeness” on his web site. Speaking at a bitcoin convention in April, Thiel described ESG – which stands for environmental, social and company governance and is a cornerstone of accountable making an investment rules – as a “virtue signalling, hate factory term” whilst describing cryptocurrency’s supporters as a “revolutionary youth movement”.

Palantir’s co-founder and leader govt, Alex Karp, 54 is a Joe Biden supporter who advised the New York Times in 2020 that his leftwing upbringing and twin heritage – of a Jewish father and African American mom – would make him a herbal goal within the wake of a far-right powergrab. “Who’s the first person who is going to get hung? You make a list, and I will show you who they get first. It’s me. There’s not a box I don’t check.”

However, Palantir’s list at the New York Stock Exchange in 2020 was once accompanied by way of a letter from Karp that slammed the Silicon Valley neighborhood. Around the similar time Palantir introduced it was once shifting its headquarters from California to Denver, Colorado.

“Our company was founded in Silicon Valley. But we seem to share fewer and fewer of the technology sector’s values and commitments,” Karp wrote. “Our software is used to target terrorists and to keep soldiers safe … We have chosen sides, and we know that our partners value our commitment.”

The head of Palantir’s London place of job is Louis Mosley, grandson of Oswald Mosley and nephew of the overdue former president of Formula One’s governing frame, Max Mosley, who turned into a privateness campaigner later in lifestyles. Speaking to the Sunday Times in 2020, Louis Mosley stated Palantir’s origins had been as a defender of private privateness. “Palantir was actually started to guard against government overreach into personal privacy. Much of the software we’ve built is to prove those kinds of protections.”

Palantir describes itself as a device corporate that doesn’t mine or promote buyer knowledge. Indeed, the bidder paperwork for the FDP state this is a platform that will likely be “owned and controlled by the NHS”.

An NHS spokesperson stated: “Safe and secure use of patient data allows the NHS to build services that are more responsive to patients, and this software we are seeking to use for the FDP will put the NHS in control of its data and ensure that sensitive patient information is kept in a secure environment that meets the highest national standards.” The spokesperson added that the NHS would run a “fair and open” procurement procedure for the platform.

But MedConfidential’s Booth says Palantir’s paintings out of doors the United Kingdom must give the NHS pause when it considers awarding the contract, because of get started in November. “Is this really a company we want to have at the heart of our NHS? You cannot divorce a piece of software from the company that makes it.”

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