NHS faces legal action over Palantir contract

The NHS is facing legal action from media platform openDemocracy over its contract with US data analytics firm Palantir.

The case involves Palantir’s involvement in the analysis of public health data and includes allegations that Palantir lobbied a senior NHS official over watermelon cocktails valued at £60.

Details of the relationship between Louis Mosley, Palantir's UK head, and Conservative peer David Prior, the chairman of NHS England, were uncovered in emails revealed to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI).

Palantir's involvement with NHS the began in March 2020, as part of efforts to leverage a “datastore” of health information to predict how best to allocate resources to deal with the pandemic.

openDemocracy criticised of the extension of the short-term contract in December, which will cost £23.5 million and run for two years.

openDemocracy and Foxglove, a not-for-profit legal firm who are bringing the case on Open Democracy’s behalf, are crowdfunding £30,000 to cover the costs of the case.

Palantir does not store any health data itself, but Foxglove said that using its data analytics tools for tasks like the Covid-19 vaccine rollout "risks demolishing trust in the NHS".

The case claims that NHS England didn’t properly consider the impact of the deal’s renewal on patients and the public by performing a Data Protection Impact Assessment. The NHS denies these claims.

Cori Crider, co-founder of Foxglove, said: "This is a giant tech company seeking to establish what will be a permanent beachhead in the NHS and we think that people have the right to know about that and debate it before it's too late."

An NHS spokesperson said: "The company is an accredited supplier to the UK public sector, the NHS completed a Data Protection Impact Assessment in April 2020, and an update will be published in due course."

“The government will squander any opportunities that might exist to better serve the public through the use of data and new technology if it doesn't have the conversation about what's acceptable in public and with the public,” said Gavin Freeguard, freelance technology researcher.

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