back to article NHS England staff voice concerns about access controls on US spy-tech firm Palantir's COVID-19 data store

Researchers at NHS England are being denied access to datasets on the Palantir platform which supports the COVID-19 data store, with no reason given, despite requests for greater transparency on the system. According to documents seen by The Register, some staff at the non-departmental body of the Department for Health and …

  1. batfink Silver badge

    So the government has agreed not to expand Palantir's work without "notifying" the public

    So that's alright then...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So the government has agreed not to expand Palantir's work without "notifying" the public

      To make it absolutely clear: "So the government has not agreed not to expand Palantir's work without failing to deny not "notifying" the public'

    2. Roj Blake

      Re: So the government has agreed not to expand Palantir's work without "notifying" the public

      Of course they'll notify the public.

      The notification will be on public display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”

      (Hat-tip to Mr Adams)

    3. Adair Silver badge

      Re: So the government has agreed not to expand Palantir's work without "notifying" the public

      Money + Cronies = Profit (simples)

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    What a surprise

    Backroom dealings without scrutiny or supervision end up in unsatisfactory data handling. Count my gast flabbered.

    Face it : it's Palantir's data now, not yours.

    How anyone can decide to work with this slime is beyond me, but that's what you get when Democracy is not first in mind when the deciders go about their business.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: What a surprise

      "Palantir's data now"

      Exactly what I was thinking, given the nature of the firm and it having access to NHS data, they probably have everything they want with back ups all the way down.

      1. joe bloggs 6

        Re: What a surprise

        And we will grant you access to your data for $$$$$$.......

        1. alain williams Silver badge

          Re: What a surprise

          Quite. Access to NHS staff for Civid-19 research is not as lucrative as other uses of that (no longer) private personal data.

        2. xyz Silver badge

          Re: What a surprise

          Just what i was thinking... They're using the wrong authentication. They need to start using those green pass cards; you know the ones with the all seeiing eye on them.

    2. oiseau Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: What a surprise

      How anyone can decide to work with this slime ...

      How?

      You said it: it's all about the deciders' business.

      And it's the Tory present government's deciders.

      Isn't it?

      O.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: What a surprise

        > How anyone can decide to work with this slime ...

        I have another explanation, even more simple: Money.

        NHS England said "they see little or no functionality [...] that is not already available with open-source data warehousing and analytics tools". But open-source software doesn't lobby and/or hand out generous gifts...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    blah, blah, blah

    Brexit. Get over it, FFS! Were you cheated on the vote!? Was it rigged? You know you're starting to sound like Trump supporters, right?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Trollface

      Re: blah, blah, blah

      Triggered.

      You are Darren Grimes and I claim my £5.

    2. 45RPM Silver badge

      Re: blah, blah, blah

      Brexit - get over it. No. Because that’s not the way democracy works. Democracy only works if you have reasoned argument and counter argument, debate - and elections based on a considered weighing up of the facts. Once an election has been held, the ‘loser’ isn’t expected to roll over - they get to keep presenting their evidence and arguing the point until the next election.

      Were you cheated on the vote? Actually, yes. Two reasons - one, if you have resort to knowingly lying to make your point (as team leave did) then you’re making a mockery of the process. Two - the margin was so slim and the impact so catastrophic that there was not sufficient mandate to leave. Especially on an advisory referendum that even vote leave wanted a 60% margin on for the result to be accepted (well, they did before they realised they were winning). Remember that if Remain had won then the status quo would have been preserved and Leave could have had a second referendum without any impact on the country. Leave won - and now we’re out with huge damage to our economy and reputation and no chance of getting back in without significant concessions (bye bye Gibraltar, bye bye veto, bye bye all those organisations which were based in the UK). We may (hopefully) get back in one day, but we’ll never be as well off as we were before Brexit.

      Was it rigged? Well yes… and no. Yes, because a credulous electorate were knowingly lied to - and that’s not how a democratic system is supposed to work. See my earlier points. No, because the count was as near as dammit accurate, and therefore the result was as reported (with a very slim majority)

      Sound like Trump supporters? Not really. To do so it would be necessary for us to lie and deny the opinions of anyone who disagrees.

      I can’t work out whether you’re making a very bad joke or whether you’re just appallingly thick.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: triggered

        No, but it appears 33rpm was

      2. PTW
        Trollface

        Re: blah, blah, blah

        Was it a 60% margin to join, you know when the British public were lied to and told it was only a trading block?

        Edited to add: BTW 45RPM you do sound rather condescending in your last sentence old boy. Sort of the way labour treated their voters calling them thick racists if they voted for Brexit, that worked out well

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: blah, blah, blah

          "Edited to add: BTW 45RPM you do sound rather condescending in your last sentence old boy. "

          Not if OP is Darren Grimes. He was ruled too thick to fill in a form by a British court of law.

        2. 45RPM Silver badge

          Re: blah, blah, blah

          Well, 67% voted to join in 1975. Now that’s what I call a mandate. It covered both the Common Market (the trading bloc that you refer to) and also the EC, the predecessor of the EU.

          With regard to further integration, that was covered in the manifestos of the political parties involved - and we all had the choice to elect them (or not). In fact, this provides the only real legitimacy of the Leave vote - in that the Tory party got elected again.

          1. Dave 15 Silver badge

            Re: blah, blah, blah

            It covered the EEC which we were told was a trading block. Plenty of statements purported from common wealth nations saying the welcomed the idea when they didnt and hadnt made them. A trading block might have been acceptable BUT we know that we were lied to by Heath et al who all knew what they had already signed us up to by the time they bothered to present the 'option' to undo the signing that had already taken place.

            1. Warm Braw Silver badge

              Re: blah, blah, blah

              It covered the EEC which we were told was a trading block

              I'd be very surprised if you were told anything. I'm now quite long in the tooth and I was too young to vote in the 1975 referendum and was around 12 when the original moves to join were actually making progress.

              I assume you're simply repeating the "trading block" line from the social media you follow and the "we" probably refers to a bunch of other people who weren't around at the time but like to give the impression they've lived through two world wars.

              If you actually go back and look at the newspapers and parliamentary discussion at the time it's very clear that there was a strong political component to the choice to join as well as an economic component. And the political component was mostly about Britain's declining influence in the world. Nice to know we've got that back.

          2. dajames Silver badge

            Re: blah, blah, blah

            Well, 67% voted to join in 1975.

            67% voted to remain in 1975. Britain joined the EEC in 1973.

        3. Pseudononymous Coward
          Holmes

          Re: blah, blah, blah

          Godwin's Law of Nazi analogies needs to be updated in the UK to something involving Brexit.

          But to address PTW's view of public opinion in the 1970s and put to bed the arrant nonsense that "the British public were lied to and told it was only a trading block":

          Just over 67% of voters in the 1975 referendum supported the Labour government's campaign to stay in the EEC.

          To give you a feel for the campaigns, two days before the referendum there was a televised debate watched by nearly 11 million people with former Tory prime minister Edward Heath, and Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe, speaking in favour of remaining in the EEC and Labour Secretary of State for Health and Social Services Barbara Castle and Secretary of State for Trade Peter Shore speaking against it.

          You can watch Heath's speech and decide whether he was just talking about trading block. I'll give you a clue - Heath says during his introduction that "first and foremost its [i.e. the EEC's] purpose is a political one". Similarly you can watch Castle's speech on the other side complaining about issues such as having to give the EEC priority in policy making, civil rights etc.

          The Times editorial on the day of the referendum discussed campaign speeches that had given a “sense of European development as an ideal”, and agreed we were part of a “European family”.

          1. Dave 15 Silver badge

            Re: blah, blah, blah

            You can check out the remain literature.

            Its a trading block

            It will protect jobs

            The British parliament will not have to pass laws...

            All bull as we know when faced with the reality

            1. Pseudononymous Coward
              FAIL

              Re: blah, blah, blah

              >You can check out the remain literature.

              We could check out the remain literature if you had bothered to provide the required links.

      3. Trigun Bronze badge

        Re: blah, blah, blah

        Well, the vote happened and we got a result. Personally, I was deeply unhappy with how the "debate" went, but I accept the decision (and I didn't vote for brexit) because, as damaged as the debate was, it was still a form of democracy and I suspect if the remainers had won and the brexitiers had lost then this comment section would look the same - just with you guys in opposition positions, if you get my drift.

        I think it's time to leave off, heal and in 5 or 10 years re discuss, but with hopefully more grace and maturity than in 2016. Just my take on it.

      4. da39a3ee5e6b4b0d3255bfef95601890afd80709
        Childcatcher

        Re: blah, blah, blah

        Both sides of the referendum played fast and loose with facts and the truth. If that is the only form of democracy our politicians allow us, we have to take it and work with it.

      5. Dave 15 Silver badge

        Re: blah, blah, blah

        The lies were pretty much 100% from the remain camp, along with all the project fear and other bullshit. Bojo screwed up big time over signing a deal because of the squealing runts of the remain camp, he should have told the EU to take a running jump over the one sided and unacceptable catastrophe of a deal they wanted but he is unfortunately too spineless.

        The remain team lost because they had no answer to the fundamental question which was why are we paying to let a bunch who hate us force us to take rules we dont want and a trade deficit we dont need.

    3. Cereberus

      Re: blah, blah, blah

      What has that got to do with Palantir?

      The only reference to Brexit is 'Palantir was named along with fellow providers Microsoft, Google, and AWS, as well as Faculty, a UK analytics firm with links to the Vote Leave Brexit referendum campaign.' which just shows that it an analytics company which is one of a group of analytics companies - one of which (Faculty) was involved with Brexit. I don't particularly see why they put this in as I don't see any relevance to the story but there is no suggestion of any vote cheating or rigging mentioned.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: blah, blah, blah

        The reason is that it is virtually impossible to mention Brexit anywhere without it setting someone off.

        (And quite rightly so, it's an enormously stupid decision, made in a very dubious way thanks to a lot of fear and lies by the "winning" side, that has, is, and will continue to cause enormous damage to the UK's economy, security of food (and other) supply, our standing in the world as a friendly, reliable and trustable country, …need I go on?)

    4. iron Silver badge

      Re: blah, blah, blah

      We will, once we've left the rotting corpse of your Union to sink on the iceberg the Tories steered it into.

    5. James Anderson

      Re: blah, blah, blah

      Lucky escape leaving the organisation before it appointed a corrupt, racist authoritarian as president.

      https://euobserver.com/democracy/152330

      The EU will collapse under the wait of its contradictions and bureaucratic inertia.

      How long will the voters Germany, Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden be happy handing out bundles of cash to the homophobic, gerrymandering rulers of Hungary, Poland or the gangsters of Roumania and Bulgaria?

    6. David Woodhead
      Megaphone

      Re: blah, blah, blah

      * Step away from the shoehorn - now!!! *

  4. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Gain of Function

    At this point probably everyone has got this data apart from people who actually need it to do meaningful work to help humanity.

    How else this data could be used? For example, a government or private company can find a common vulnerability in the group of people they hate and then engineer a virus that is going to be extremely violent exploiting that vulnerability while being mild for other groups.

    Probably China already has this ability, as we all were able to suffer the "demo" and how it affects different groups.

    Now Western governments and private entities scramble to match the capabilities in this space and they need data and more data.

    Looks similar to the nuclear weapon race.

    1. NXM

      Re: Gain of Function

      "a government or private company can find a common vulnerability in the group of people they hate"

      Time to take your dried frog pills

  5. IGotOut Silver badge

    Good job...

    ... We don't have an arse kissing career politician running the Department of Health now.

    Phew.

    1. Trigun Bronze badge

      Re: Good job...

      What, there are no politicians at all in the department of health now?

  6. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    I’m just picturing that hospital scene in Idiocract

    Not long now

    1. Flywheel Silver badge

      Don't Panic! Dido Harding will set us on the right track

      /s

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > individual patient records can be reconstructed by triangulation over several data sets or reintegration with the original marker set

    Funnily enough this is *exactly* what Palantir Foundy is designed to do.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Health agencies do not care about data privacy law

    Just received a response from a local health service agency with the results of their formal review of their handling of a FOI Request I submitted a few months ago. I called for the review as many of the documents (including DPIAs) they provided in response to the FOI request looked like drafts rather than finished/formal documents.

    From their review:

    "the panel expressed regret that certain documents still remain in draft format"

    "However, following review, the panel can confirm that this has been due to business pressures outside of the control of the <Organisation's Name>. The panel have sought reassurance that this matter is being addressed and has been advised that the anticipated date for introduction of the formal document is December 2021."

    This is their response regarding the DPIA that they allegedly carried out in the early 2019 for a change in processing of personal data. In reality the DPIA has sat in draft (i.e. uncompleted) form since then and it will only allegedly be completed by December (more than 2 years after they actually implemented the processing changes that the DPIA was supposed to "evaluate") only because I highlighted the matter.

    So its ok for a NHS organisation not to comply with data protection law for several years because of "business pressures" outside their control?

  9. Howard Sway

    NHS signed a £23m two-year contract with Palantir

    Well, you can't expect to be allowed access to your own data for such a piddling amount as that!

    Yet more proof that the Big Data Grab is not going to be for the benefit of the NHS at all. The people who are trying to control our lives by owning our data and profiting from it however will be richer and more powerful than ever.

  10. anothercynic Silver badge

    This was all foreseen...

    ... And the now ex-Health Secretary reassured the House that everything would be fine!

    Well, it's not fine, is it? That data needs to be repatriated to something the NHS runs, not Palantir or some other third-party outfit.

    1. hoola Silver badge

      Re: This was all foreseen...

      The only thing they can do is stop sending any new data. The chances of getting back what is there and preventing any on-going use is non-existent.

      The data should never, ever have left the NHS in the first place but inept management and corrupt politicians believed they new better.

  11. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    “I Like Money” - Frito

  12. CommanderGalaxian

    LOL. Who would have thought that BoJo and Co. would monetise people's health records - while simultaneously denying the people themselves and pro-bono researchers access to those records.

  13. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Up to the elbow

    That must hurt, mustn't it?

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Up to the elbow

      I'm sure the penetration is being greased by brown envelopes and future non-exec directorships.

  14. DwarfPants
    Holmes

    Deannomisation

    I wonder if you can unmask an anonymous commentard by cross referencing the post vote increase against the user account vote totals.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Deannomisation

      Yes, with a lot of chance and a lot of work, because obviously if a user's up/downvotes changes can't be traced down on any visible posts, they have to be put down to anonymous ones, that's true. But there are some caveats and limitations:

      1. You'll have to check all users, at least all those which have been recently active. Anybody can be the Anonymous Coward you're looking for.

      2. You have to keep a tally of each of those users' visible up/downvotes (all their posts and all the votes for each of them). Which can amount to many hundreds of posts, multiplied by a dozen users... Better hire an assistant or create a database.

      3. If you have a suspect, you can go and vote on the anonymous post and check immediately if the vote count of the suspected user has changed. But it will only be valid for a short time, until other votes muddy up the picture. Except if The Register has implemented some vote tally delay to protect anonymous users (I'm too lazy to check).

      So yes, it can be done.

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