Palantir made £22m profit from NHS data deals

OpenDemocracy group suggests former Palantir employees have now made their way into UK government positions

US cyber security firm Palantir brought in £22 million worth of profits in 2020 following its controversial deal with the UK's NHS.

The company has been awarded more than £46m in public contracts by the UK government since the start of 2020, according to the openDemocracy. 

In 2019, the US firm reported losses of nearly £1.6 million, but it's work in the UK has helped to dramatically transform its balance sheets. 

Palantir has been a target for the openDemocracy for some time, with the latter suggesting the former is a "secretive" company seeking "unprecedented" access to NHS patient data. Last year, openDemocracy successfully sued the UK's government and forced it to commit to not extending Palantir's contract beyond the COVID pandemic without a consultation.

Palantir was founded by US entrepreneur Peter Thiel and was originally a service that supported the CIA's counterinsurgency and intelligence operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. It's other clients have included the FBI, the US Army, and the US Special Operations Command.

However, in the UK, the firm is more famous for its close ties to the UK government. OpenDemocracy said that it has now discovered that a "number" of former Palantir officials now work for the UK government. 

One of them, Mike Speirs, joined the Department of Health and Social Care in December, six months after leaving Palantir.

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"Speirs' LinkedIn profile now describes him as a "deputy director" of the department, acting as chief of staff to the chief operating officer of the COVID Test and Trace scheme," the non profit wrote. "While at Palantir, Speirs says he 'led the data ingestion and governance programme for Palantir's work with the NHS in response to the COVID-19 crisis'."

The contracts awarded to Palantir have also been called into question by the deputy leader of Labour, Angela Rayner, who said that the rules which govern conflicts of interest in Parliament were "unfit for purpose". 

"Short-term emergency COVID powers cannot and must not be used to secretly embed private companies within our National Health Service and give private companies access to sensitive patient data," Rayner told the openDemocracy.

"Our National Health Service is our country's greatest institution and our greatest asset. It should be run in the interests of the people who work for the NHS, the people who rely on the NHS and all of us who love and treasure it, not in the interests of private companies that seek to profit from health services and patient data."

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