back to article Of all the analytics firms in the world, why is Palantir getting its claws into UK health data?

Most people are aware of some things and not aware of other things. But UK health secretary Matt Hancock isn't sure if he's aware of something or not. The "something" in question is whether there are links between Palantir, the controversial military-linked US analytics company, and Cambridge Analytica, the UK analytics …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Answers

    on the back of a large pay packet in a large brown envelope.

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    Matt Hancock

    " I'm not aware"

    Headline! Government Minister fails Turing test!

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Matt Hancock

      "Please confirm to your knowledge that you are not a fully robotic being, were born an organic creature and do, in fact, possess what many cultures would call a soul."

      "What? To my knowledge? Do a lot of people not know if they’re robots?"

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Matt Hancock

      On the other side of that get out of jail free card: "I can't remember". They all seem to have learned that whatever they say, they mustn't perjure themselves.

      1. RegGuy1 Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Matt Hancock

        They all seem to have learned that whatever they say, Tories will come running in droves to vote for them.

        Sad. Very sad.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Matt Hancock

      I don't think he was going to say "I'm not aware". I think he was going to say "I'm not allowed to say" and realized that this wouldn't be a wise thing to say.

  3. oiseau Silver badge
    WTF?

    ... Hancock isn't sure if he's aware of ...

    ... whether there are links between Palantir, the controversial military-linked US analytics company, and Cambridge Analytica ...

    Of course he's aware, of that and absolutely everything else that's going on.

    How is it possible that he actually has to be asked about it and then have people believe the drivel that comes out of his mouth?

    It's a Tory government and the UK has already seen what this one is worth.

    What is there to ask him about with the exception of his resignation?

    O.

    1. Julz Silver badge
      Trollface

      I guess the same way people here are expected to believe what you say (honorific of choice) Bird.

      As for Tory governments, that seems to be what people vote for in the UK. We haven't had anything you could call a Labor government since the seventies. That was observed to go so well we haven't had one since.

      1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

        Even that Labour government were forced into Tory-ish policies by being in hock to the International Monetary Fund. The last true Labour gov. would be the guys who gave us the NHS.

        1. Julz Silver badge
          Trollface

          They apparently did good sandwiches and beer at number ten though. Got to be better than wine and cheese.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "We haven't had anything you could call a Labor government since the seventies."

        I'm not sure I'd call the present govt. Tory. One of the clown's first actions on gaining power was to turf out several who more clearly were conservatives.

  4. Howard Sway Silver badge

    dubbed by The Times as the "Leave campaign's data geek."

    Finally! Proof that although I have worked with some right twonks over the years, it could have been someone worse. Or *worse* as they say in wannabe modern day *tech bloggage*.

  5. 45RPM Silver badge

    And yet, despite all this, the ostrich voters of this country will still continue to bury their heads in the sand and try to justify their actions by saying that “sure, the Tories are bad - but they’re better than Labour or the Liberal Democrats”. There’s no evidence of this superiority, of course, and there’s quite a lot of evidence that the reverse is true - but still. Right wing Good, Left wing Bad. It must be so ‘cos it says so in the tabloid chip wrappers (in which category I also place The Maily Telegraph and The Times).

    No wonder this country is screwed. It’s populated by imbeciles. /rant

    1. hoola Silver badge

      I think that to be fair it is an issue with politicians overall, it is just this lot have been in for a while so what they are currently doing is seen as a Tory issue.

      The issue of the Tory's being the best of a bad job is difficult to quantify as each group is going to have a different set of issues, each with their own side effect and result.

      I am not supporting Hancock, almost every word that comes out of his mouth is meaningless or worse. That also goes for most of the Cabinet. up to the PM.

      1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

        All our current generation of politicians do seem to be rubbish. I do think part of the problem is the MASSIVE amount of money donated, particularly to the Conservative Party, so the parties don't need capable and impressive senior figures.

        What we need is to stop giving politicians such a massive amount of power. We need damage limitation rather than big changes! What we really need is a period of minority governments, with fairly frequent changes of power, driven to compromise.

        1. rg287 Silver badge

          We need damage limitation rather than big changes! What we really need is a period of minority governments, with fairly frequent changes of power, driven to compromise.,

          Maybe. The difficulty with that is you risk ending up where Australia has been for the past few years with the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd flip-flopping, or frequent changes to the Liberal leadership, and that's no bloody better either.

          Finding the balance between majority governments steam-rolling through authoritarian policies versus minority governments not being able to pass legislation or get stuff done is a tricky problem in politics.

          It is notable that some of the most economically successful nations at the moment fall into the former category (China), whilst the likes of the US have stagnated in transitioning their economies (see: Detroit and the Rust Belt), partly due to the President and Congress often being at loggerheads.

          We just don't want the societal implications that go with the Chinese model.

      2. 45RPM Silver badge

        I sympathise with your cynicism - but I don’t agree with it.

        Some politicians are in it to extract whatever benefit, usually financial, that they can for themselves. This seems to be the case for a majority of Conservative politicians (including UKIP / Brexit party, which are broadly conservative in their outlook), and a minority of Liberal and Labour politicians (even more so with the Greens).

        Other politicians are in it for the public good, and genuinely believe that the views that they hold and the policies that they promote are for the benefit of the country and the wider population. As far as I can see, this holds true for the majority of centre and left wing politicians, whether I agree with them or not. You can be sure that I disagree with much of what Jeremy Corbyn stood for - but equally sure that I admire the man for trying to do what he genuinely believed would do the most good for the people of this country.

        So who would I rather govern the country? Venal, grasping, rapacious predators who will stop at nothing to line their own pockets (the Conservative party). Or clumsy, sometimes naive, do-gooders who cock up once in a while whilst trying to deliver a better life for the broadest spectrum of people? Well, neither of-course - I’d rather a competent well oiled machine trying to deliver a better future for us all. But given hobsons-choice (a government trying to deliver in our best interest or no best interest at all) I’ll take the hippy over the pirate every single time.

        1. Trigun Bronze badge

          The issue is that the "hippies" cock up the country's finances every time they get into power. If it wasn't for that I might just vote for them.

          1. 45RPM Silver badge

            It’s certainly a point of view. But where’s your evidence? Perhaps the best analogy I’d give is that of a power station. You might argue that Labour governments didn’t maintain the generators properly so the power output dropped until someone fixed them. I’d argue that the Tory government has ripped out the turbines for their scrap metal value and the generators are spinning only on the residual energy in the flywheels - and the power station is now beyond repair.

            Think of the lions of British Industry of the past century. The powerhouses of the British Economy. Well, most of those were sold off during Tory Governments (incidentally, I’m mainly thinking of private sector businesses which we failed to protect - Reuters, ARM, Apricot, Lyons, Rowntree etc) - but that’s okay. We didn’t need them did we? We had our powerhouse financial sector. Well, we did until Brexit. So how’s that for fiscal probity?

            1. Trigun Bronze badge

              This is the trouble about discussing politics via forum - people make an assumption that if you have an issue with X then you're all for Y. I think perhaps the down votes demonstrate that, maybe?

              I like none of the political parties - they all have their issues and that includes the conservatives and your point about them not protecting UK companies is one I very much agree with and have said so previously on the reg forums. However, I also have issues with Labour for *their* screw ups as well and given the somewhat left leaning bias that many have on the forums, thought it worth bringing up to counter-balance the kak-on-the-torys rhetoric you sometimes see. If you (that's the royal you, not you in particular) are going to have a go at one party for their failings then be real and do so for the other (major) party as well.

              1. 45RPM Silver badge

                Fair enough. But if you count cock up by scale and number and triumph by scale and number then by my reckoning the scales tip leftward.

          2. Roland6 Silver badge

            The "hippies" have never held power in the UK, the closest they've ever got is: 1 MP, 2 members of the HoL and a few dozen councillors.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Politics is rarely about facts and almost always about sentiment. The Labour Party took northern working class voters for granted for too long and, as some wag recently put it, have taken to telling people that they're wrong for not voting for them.

      I don't expect the recently converted Tory voters to stick with them once they realise they've been sold a dummy, but that might not happen for a while and even then might simply be a return to not voting. This is what Cummings, et al. understood: people want a sense of being listened to. As long as that's the case they don't care what Trump, Johnson, etc. get up to.

      1. 45RPM Silver badge

        Politicians should always listen - but they should also be brave enough not to deliver if what is being asked for is not in our best interest. Part of that contract is to explain clearly why what was being asked for is not in our best interest of course - I don’t know how to fulfil that part in the 21st century, but maybe part of it is focussed, single message, YouTube videos which educate on a particular concept without any party political advertising. Useful topics might include (after the nag has done a runner):

        * What Europe has done for us

        * The benefit of proportional representation

        * The importance of lockdown

        * Why vaccination works

        I’m sure that we can all think of others.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Well, yes, I'd love a return of politics of conviction. But we also need to learn from the last 20 years where many people have seen their living standards eroded, while being told how good everything is. I'm a mild-mannered liberal and I'm getting really fed up of being told of what's good for me. I could stamp my foot, I really could!

          As for your list: it's too abstract for many.

          For many people EU projects seem like expensive white elelphants. The peace it's brougt to many might be a better approach but you also need to find a way of engaging people's self-interest.

          Making sure everyone gets heard is more important than a boring discussion of electoral systems.

          Personally, I don't think lockdowns can be demonstrated to have been particularly effective, though this depends a bit of the definition. Boosting spending on primary care with some of that mythical bus money would have done more. As would have the earlier introduced of quick tests, especially in care environments, after their approval over a year ago… Okay, details. Whatever the policy, the message could have been simpler.

          I suspect vaccination suffers like all prevention mechanisms from the lack of immediacy: warnings on fag packets are known to be understood but the threat is too remote – not today. Shock therapy of people dying or becoming disfigured or disabled is much more effective but, largely thanks to the effectiveness of vaccination, the images of people with diptheria, polio, etc. have faded from the collective consciousness…

          1. 45RPM Silver badge

            Thumbs up. It’s a good point. I did say that it was a difficult nut to crack though, and that I didn’t know what the solution is.

            1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

              Given the current climate of resentment the need to listen first should have been obvious. Unfortunately, particularly under Corbin the Labour Party doubled down on marginal issues. Starmer got a post-Corbin bounce but is currently having to sit out Boris' own post-Boris vaccine boost. That won't last, of course, because the economy is a train wreck and the Cabinet a bunch of fools just desperate to fuck things up.

              Now would be the time to go out into the country, talk to people, take the flak and develop policies like Blair's "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime", which meld the party's philosophy with what the electorate wants to hear. Oh, and politics is a dirty business, but if the ad hominem isn't working against Johnson, then find something else like heartwrenching stories of victims of government policy. The bigger the list the better.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The problem with trying to do apolitical informational adverts is that the people whose policies run counter to basic truth will claim it as political regardless.

          If I reckon I can garner more support by drumming up anti-maskers and the general village idiots, then you trying to inform people of the efficacy of masks or whatever other thing is clearly an attack on my policies and thus political. If there were votes in the platform of 2+2=9 then claiming otherwise would be political - at least in the eyes of the those running the platform.

          Many politicians generally don't feel beholden to science, research, common knowledge, or anything else, unless it can benefit them - and I agree with another commentator that this seems most prevalent on the right as opposed to the left (though that could simply be because the left has beliefs that happen to coincide with truth).

          Climate change is real or not depending on the votes involved, and once reality catches up and things get real bad, we'll blame someone for allowing it happen and try to ensure the idiots don't realise that the someone was us all along.

  6. Fazal Majid

    In the homeland of Tolkien

    Does no one remember it is Sauron who wields control over the Palantir?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: In the homeland of Tolkien

      One of the Palantir... there are outlets everywhere and Sauron just happens to be the most skilled at using it, finding methods of turning it the stones into covert data gathering devices.

  7. Abominator

    Do read "First Platoon" on what this company is up to. Its breadth of surveillance is quote astonishing.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When I was at Conference, brothers and sisters...

    "Are there not other data analytics companies out there with similar technical capabilities but without the political baggage?"

    Maybe, but Palantir is one of very few with a history of being repeatedly represented at very senior level (e.g. Thiel himsel on multiple occasions, also Alex Karp) at the Bilderberg conferences.

    Further reading via:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Bilderberg_participants#United_States_4

    Representing the UK, you'll find Dido Harding as a participant, fwiw. And some past or present very senior Barclays execs, and past or present very senior BP execs, and ..

    Here's the US-based part of the list, you may recognise names such as Bezos, Gates, Gerstner, Nadella, Schmidt, etc. Facebook are represented, just not by Zuckerberg (he's just the fall guy).

    Sam Altman (2016),[16] President, Y Combinator;co-chairman of OpenAI

    Jeff Bezos (2011, 2013),[10] Founder and CEO of Amazon.com

    Timothy C. Collins (2008–2012), CEO of Ripplewood Holdings[2][53][22][10][3]

    David M. Cote (2016),[16] Chairman and CEO, Honeywell

    Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. (2016),[16] President and CEO, TIAA

    Bill Gates (2010),[151][22] Chairman of Microsoft

    Louis V. Gerstner, Jr.,[152] former CEO of IBM

    Donald E. Graham (2008–2010),[2][22] CEO and chairman of The Washington Post Company, board of directors for Facebook

    H. J. Heinz II (1954),[119] CEO of H. J. Heinz Company (deceased)

    Mellody Hobson (2016),[16] President, Ariel Investment, LLC

    Reid Hoffman (2016, 2019),[16][50] Co-Founder and Executive Chairman, LinkedIn

    Chris Hughes (2011),[10] Co-founder of Facebook

    Kenneth M. Jacobs (2016),[16] Chairman and CEO, Lazard

    James A. Johnson (2016),[16] Chairman, Johnson Capital Partners (deceased)

    Vernon Jordan (2016),[16] Senior Managing Director, Lazard Frères & Co. LLC

    Alex Karp (2016),[16] CEO, Palantir Technologies

    Klaus Kleinfeld (2016),[16] Chairman and CEO, Alcoa

    Henry Kravis (2008–2016), co-founder, co-chairman and co-CEO of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts[2][53][22][10][3][11][12][13][16]

    Richard Levin (2016),[16] CEO, Coursera

    Divesh Makan (2016),[16] CEO, ICONIQ Capital

    Scott Malcomson (2016),[16] Author; President, Monere Ltd.

    Craig Mundie (2016),[16] Principal, Mundie & Associates

    Satya Nadella (2019[50]), CEO of Microsoft

    Eric Schmidt (2008,[2] 2010,[22] 2011, 2013–2016,[11][12][13] 2019[50]), Executive Chairman of Alphabet

    Peter Thiel (2007–2016, 2019),[2][153][154][67][23][better source needed][16][50] President of Clarium Capital and PayPal co-founder.

  9. Maximus Delfango
    Alien

    If Dominic Cummings says there's nothing to worry about...

    Then surely that must be more than enough for the likes of us.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If Dominic Cummings says there's nothing to worry about...

      Cummings is like Trump. Both can't accept that they have lost the power in Government that they once had.

      Both lie as soon as they open their mouths.

      Unlike Trump, Cummings isn't (yet) trying to overthrow the elected government of their country.

      Watch this space.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If Dominic Cummings says there's nothing to worry about...

        Cummings is no Trump. He's a Poundshop Bannon. But with more sense of entitlement.

  10. Graham Cobb Silver badge

    Not just about personal data

    It worked on metrics like 'number of cases in each hospital'. It was for *management decision-making*, nothing to do with individual data."

    While it is less obnoxious for Palantir to be involved in non-personal data, the management data is, of course, also massively valuable to anyone looking to cash in on the Tories' privatisation of the NHS.

  11. Danny 2 Silver badge

    The Lord Hall defence

    "With the benefit of hindsight I don't remember, but I trusted my appointees who failed me, and I made Bashir cry so anyone would have cleared him."

    The British establishment has sank into a nadir or corruption not seen since the Rotten Boroughs. The chumocracy has killed hundreds of thousands of citizens yet the lack of accountability is palpable.

  12. Fred Goldstein

    Whether or not Palantir makes money, or how, is an interesting question, given their secrecy, and their main role as an outsourced spy agency of the US government. But Alex Karp made the news for getting the largest compensation of anyone in the US last year, making $1.1 BILLION US dollars. That probably warms the hearts of Tories, who like the rich to get richer and recognize CEOs as the American version of royalty.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Curiously...

      a great many scholars who study Tolkein have drawn the conclusion that the Palantir are an allegory for the propaganda and disinformation tactics used especially during the world wars by all factions to influence both their enemies and their own population, distract them, break or bolster morale, sow distrust or stoke nationalism etc.

      In other words, shorthand for all manner of dishonest and covert practices directed primarily at "non-combatants".

  13. Mike 16 Silver badge

    entirely personal capacity

    Wasn't something of the sort also stated by Standard Oil after one of their tankers was caught refueling u-boats?

    I mean, it's clearly possible for a rogue employee to pick up the keys to a tanker from the guard shack and do a bit of freelance commerce, right?

    Likewise the result of an extremely rare occasion of hiring someone who just happens to have a personal/monetary interest in the information they coincidentally end up managing.

    1. Eguro

      Re: entirely personal capacity

      I'm reminded of a rogue engineer in a certain tech company as well.

  14. Colonel Mad

    The final paragraph! Masterful.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I'm not... erm... I don't think I'm aware of that, no,"

    he's either lying (because he's got a finger in the pie) or just ignorant, give the man some credit!

  16. BebopWeBop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Minor correction - it is the English Health Service that is sharing this data, not the UK.

  17. staringatclouds
    Big Brother

    Cambridge Analytica database

    A few idle questions

    Cambridge Analytica built a database of voters using various scams & scraped Facebook data, it wasn't complete but it was good enough to target at least some of the electorate with ads playing to their concerns and may have affected their vote in the EU referendum

    Does anyone know what happened to that database ?

    Does anyone believe it was deleted when CA closed shop ?

    Does anyone think it's not being maintained & augmented ?

    Does anyone wonder how the Conservatives achieved an 80 seat majority with a little over 29% of the electorate voting for them ?

    Let the downvotes begin

  18. Dinanziame Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    I thought Palantir was acknowledged by all as a private entity spying for the US government...? I wasn't even aware that they had a different business model.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: acknowledged by all

      "I thought Palantir was acknowledged by all as a private entity spying for the US government.."

      You know it, I know it, plenty others know it, but the mere thought of mentioning it in public will have anyone put on a tinfoil hattery or similar watch list.

      It's "acknowledged by all" in the same way as (e.g.) the Five Eyes universal surveillance of phone conversations with no legal basis or specific authorisation or supervision was "acknowledged by all", ie the authorities repeatedly deny it and if anyone does make the accusation in public TPTB claim it's a ridiculous suggestion. Repeat until someone provides irrefutable evidence that it's been happening (e.g. Snowden), at which point the deniers instantly switch to "everyone knew it was happening".

      That's the way it works, isn't it.

  19. JohnMurray

    I would be more wary of allowing USA healthcare providers to get your data.....

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