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The UK govt’s coronavirus data deals are public: Faculty, Palantir were granted IP rights

American technology firm Palantir and UK-based firm Faculty were granted intellectual property rights, and were allowed to train their algorithms, and “profit off their unprecedented access” to data of the UK’s National Health Service, openDemocracy said in a blog post.

While the government claims that an undisclosed change to the contract has “cured this problem”, they have not released the new contract, openDemocracy said. It’s not clear if other contracts were altered as well, it added.

The UK government on June 5 released multiple coronavirus data deals it had signed with Google, Palantir, Microsoft, and AI firm Faculty, to openDemocracy and law firm Foxglove (see the contracts here: Google, Palantir, Faculty, Microsoft). In March, the UK’s National Health Service had quietly announced a project that openDemocracy calls the “the largest handover of NHS patient data to private corporations in history”. The post announced that NHS will begin working on a “data platform” to “bring multiple data sources into a single, secure location”.

The contracts were release hours before the UK government faced court proceedings from openDemocracy and Techglove, who had threatened to sue NHS if they continued to keep the contracts confidential. The contracts revealed, among other things, that Faculty is being paid over £1 million to provide AI services. The government also modified some terms of the deal after demands for transparency were made by Foxglove under the Freedom of Information Act.

openDemocracy had red-flagged the deal and and the role of technology companies, given the companies’ track record and the UK government’s lack of transparency around a deal of this size. Palantir, founded by Trump ally Peter Thiel, is a data-mining firm “best known for supporting the CIA’s counterinsurgency and intelligence operations in Iraq and Afghanistan” openDemocracy said in May. Faculty is headed by Mark Warner, brother of Ben Warner, who ran the data operation for the Vote Leave campaign. Moreover, the UK government rebuffed Foxglove’s requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

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