Success! UK government concedes lawsuit over £23m NHS ‘data deal’ with controversial US tech corporation Palantir

Tagged with: Health data, Palantir

In February, Foxglove supported openDemocracy to launch legal action over the government’s failure to consult the public before handing a massive new contract to US tech corporation Palantir. Faced with a Judicial Review claim, the government has now caved.  

After months of insisting citizens had no right to a say in this NHS contract, the government has finally committed not to allow Palantir to start using the NHS datastore for non-Covid matters without consulting the public first. They agreed to ensure, prior to any expansion, that they would conduct a new analysis of whether that would be in compliance with data protection law. 

They also agreed to engage the public properly, including via patient juries, about whether a company like Palantir is appropriate for a long-term role in the NHS at all. None of this would have happened without your support and openDemocracy’s lawsuit.

Public trust – and its relation to public health – was at the core of the case. The lawsuit came amid government campaigns to shore up trust in the NHS amongst marginalised groups. A lack of trust appears to be fuelling vaccine hesitancy in some ethnic minority communities and among migrants.

A permanent role for Palantir – a CIA-backed, US-based spy tech firm that recently won a contract supporting UK border enforcement and which has an extensive and controversial history with US police – risked exacerbating the trust deficit in these communities when the government needs it most.

And it’s not just about Palantir. This episode also raises even bigger questions about the future of the NHS, the future role of patient data, and the future role of private companies in processing that data.

Palantir is one particularly unpleasant company but it’s not the only massive US tech corporation sniffing around the NHS and its hugely valuable health data assets. Foxglove will continue to monitor the government’s wider plans for health data. We will stand up for a public NHS where patient data is used in the public interest, with patient privacy protected and public assets used for public benefit.