Analysis of the NHS Contract with Palantir

JOSÉ A. VIDAL
Jose A. Vidal
Published in
3 min readNov 29, 2023

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The headline from The New York Times on November 21, in its Tech section, was damning:

I won’t be me who introduces Palantir to readers, and therefore, nothing better than reading this blog’s mentor, Professor Dans, who has written extensively about this company. In the digital age, where information flows at unprecedented speeds, data privacy has become a central concern, especially when it comes to medical information.

As we saw, a few days ago, the National Health Service of England (NHS England) awarded a substantial £330 million (380€ million) contract to Palantir Technologies, this American company with a background marked by its work with the U.S. military.

This agreement, aimed at reforming the technological system of the British healthcare services, has sparked discussions about data privacy and the ethical use of medical information. The contract with Palantir involves the implementation of the federated data platform in the NHS, with projected investments during the next seven years.

This system will address various critical aspects of the healthcare system, from managing waiting lists to coordinating healthcare, supporting the vaccination of vulnerable individuals, managing population health, and supply chain management. However, the most delicate aspect of this contract is the management of sensitive patient data and how their privacy will be ensured.

Palantir Technologies, founded in 2003, has its roots in the intelligence and defense sector. Known for developing advanced analytical technologies, the company has worked closely with the U.S. military, logically raising concerns about data security and privacy in the context of the NHS contract. The privacy of health data is a fundamental right of individuals.

The fact that Palantir has access to sensitive medical information raises the crucial question of how this data will be protected and managed. The NHS has stated that all data will be under its control and will only be used for planning and healthcare assistance, excluding research purposes. Additionally, it is assured that general practitioner data will not be included in the national version of the platform.

These measures attempt to address concern about the inappropriate use of data and the protection of patients´ privacy. The ethical use of data in health is a crucial issue in the era of digitization. While technology can improve the efficiency and quality of healthcare, it also shows ethical challenges. It is imperative that companies, especially those with backgrounds in sensitive areas such as defense, demonstrate a strong commitment to privacy and ethics.

In this context, Palantir has the responsibility to ensure that its involvement in the NHS project complies with the highest standards of data protection and transparency.

The awarding of the NHS contract to Palantir underscores the growing intersection between technology and health, as well as the challenges associated with data privacy. Implementing rigorous measures to ensure patient privacy and ethical use of medical information is essential.

Technology companies, especially those with background in sensitive areas, must demonstrate ongoing commitment with ethics and privacy to gain the trust of the public and ensure responsible use of data in the healthcare domain.

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Algorihms and health sciences: a winning combination. Enrique Dans.

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JOSÉ A. VIDAL
Jose A. Vidal

ACCESS TO HEALTH, MEDICINE, BIOLOGY & DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY