By Adam Smith | Tech correspondent
April 20, 2023 /Thomson Reuters Foundation/ — U.S. data analytics firm Palantir is bidding to provide Britain’s National Health Service with software across the system – a move which has raised concerns from data specialists and advocates.
Palantir, founded by U.S. billionaire Peter Thiel, was the NHS data analytics provider during the pandemic and is currently bidding for a £480 million contract for a “federated data platform”.
But analysts have voiced criticism that the cost of the software is too high and the tools it provides are not up to standard.
“Senior leadership love it because it produces nice, shiny dashboards but as an analyst, it doesn’t allow you to do the kind of data manipulation that is the building blocks of your analytical skills,” an NHS analyst told the Financial Times (paywalled).
NHS guidelines recommend services be built using open-source code in order to avoid the service getting locked-in with one provider.
A health worker administers an injection of a COVID-19 vaccine inside a NHS vaccine centre, in St Albans, Britain January 15, 2021. REUTERS/Paul Childs
The relationship between Palantir and the NHS was called into question last month when confidential patient information was uploaded to the company’s Foundry database.
The database collected dates of birth, postcodes and detailed medical histories which were pseudonymised, according to NHS England.
Despite claims from the health service and Palantir that there was no access to identifiable medical records, privacy advocates are still concerned.
“Slapping a sticker over your NHS number doesn’t suddenly mean your health record needs no protection,” Cori Crider, a lawyer at Foxglove Legal, told OpenDemocracy. “People are very easy to re-identify from pseudonymised data.”
Children light candles during a tribute to victims of a fatal attack at the Cantinho do Bom Pastor daycare center, in Blumenau, in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, Brazil, April 6, 2023. REUTERS/Vinicius Bretzke