NHS records ‘could be shared with secretive US tech giant’: Medical histories of millions of patients could be available to companies with ‘terrible track record’ of personal data, campaigners warn
- Sensitive information of each person with GP must be shared with other parties
- NHS said the plan will aid research and planning to tackle the coronavirus
- Campaign group urges government to reveal who has access to data
The medical histories of millions of NHS patients in England could be shared with a secretive US tech giant that has a “terrible track record” of personal data, campaigners warned.
Starting next month, sensitive information – including physical, sexual and mental health data – of any person registered with a GP will be shared with third parties unless they opt out.
The NHS said the plan will aid research and planning to tackle Covid and other health concerns.
Foxglove, a digital rights campaign group, is urging the government to disclose exactly who has access to the data, fearing it could be US software company Palantir, whose core business is providing big data and surveillance technology to the world. army, state security. , and police.
Starting next month, sensitive information – including physical, sexual and mental health data – of any person registered with a GP will be shared with third parties unless they opt out
Human rights groups have criticized the £30 billion company for its involvement in controversial programs and accused it of not being careful about who it does business with.
Last night, NHS Digital, which manages the health service’s IT systems and leads the project, said only organizations with a “legal basis and legitimate need to” use the GP database would have access to it.
It did not comment on whether Palantir would be involved, but said all requests for access would be examined by independent experts and GP representatives.
The company became increasingly involved with the NHS during the pandemic after it offered to build a Covid-19 data store. Since then, it has won two more contracts worth a total of £24 million.
Foxglove said it was ‘very concerned’ that Palantir – which has been listed as a ‘preferred partner’ for the procurement of NHS data service – could be used to manage the new GP database. It is one of 50 organizations calling on the health service to end its involvement with the company.
Their petition reads: “Palantir is an American technology and security company with a terrible track record. They help governments, intelligence agencies and border forces spy on innocent civilians and target minorities and the poor.” Palantir declined to comment, but a company source said it would only provide the software to hold the data and would not have access to it.
The NHS said the plan will aid research and planning to tackle Covid and other health concerns
Foxglove director Cori Crider said: ‘Palantir is the last company we want near the NHS.’ The NHS faces mounting criticism over plans to transfer 55 million medical records to a database and share them with researchers and private companies.
Patients have until June 23 to opt out of the scheme, called GP Data for Planning and Research, by filling out a form and bringing it to their GP.
NHS Digital said the anonymized data will only be shared with government agencies, charities or commercial organizations that meet strict criteria to use it for research and health and care planning.
The spokesperson added: “No organization can access or use this data unless it has a legal basis and a legitimate need to use it.”
Palantir was founded in 2003 by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal.
Foxglove said the company’s technology specializes in security and surveillance, and much of its work was “secret.”
Many US law enforcement agencies have used their software for predictive policing, which has been criticized for targeting poor and black communities.
Palantir has also helped US and UK digital spy agencies, NSA and GCHQ, manage mass surveillance programs.