Peter Thiel’s (pictured) Palantir Technologies has been awarded a contract by Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) to continue providing a “COVID-19 data store” designed to track how the virus is spreading across the UK.
This £1m contract is an extension of an earlier £1 deal signed on 28 March that allowed the Palo Alto-based data analytics firm to access information from British coronavirus patients to track the evolution of the disease across the European country.
The new £1m contract with Palantir would give the NHS four more months to us the agency, whose data helps the UK government’s decision-making as it prepares against a potential second wave of the virus.
openDemocracy, an independent political website, has pushed the government to disclose the details of these deals with Palantir amid fears that sensitive patient information could be shared with private firms without their express consent.
“The contracts show that the companies involved were originally granted intellectual property rights (including the creation of databases), and were allowed to train their models and profit off their unprecedented access to NHS data”, wrote openDemocracy editor-in-chief Mary Fitzgerald in a blog post published on 5 June.
The data analyzed by Palantir’s software would include the name, address, age, health condition, X-ray results, and other similar information from patients, even though the NHS has assured the public that any data that reveals identity will be masked by a pseudonym or aggregated as part of a larger data set.
Palantir has signed a string of controversial data deals. It has signed military-related contracts and solutions provided for defense agencies of the likes of the United States’ FBI, CIA, and Army forces.
Palantir is preparing to launch an initial public offering of its shares in September, while it has been raising more than $1bn capital – outside of the IPO – at a valuation of over $20bn according to sources familiar with the results of its prior funding rounds.
Founded by Thiel and Alex Karp, Palantir is one of the key players in the growing trend known as ‘big data’ which seeks to analyze large data sets to extract valuable information for multiple purposes. Thiel is also a co-founder of PayPal.