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Health & Pharma

Palantir hiring of NHS AI director raises eyebrows

Article ImageThe move comes as U.S. firm rolls out its AI software in NHS hospitals.

Data analytics firm Palantir has hired the head of AI at the U.K.’s national health care system, which is raising some eyebrows given their controversial relationship.

Palantir, co-founded by tech billionaire Peter Thiel, has hired Indra Joshi, the former director of AI in the digital arm of the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS). She left the government job in March.

Palantir also reportedly is bidding for an NHS contract worth more than $300 million to manage datasets, according to Bloomberg.

In early March, shortly before the news of Joshi’s hiring broke, Palantir announced plans to roll out its AI data processing software to 30 NHS hospitals in a bid to reduce patient backlogs.

The controversy

In the early days of the pandemic under urgent conditions, Palantir was given a short-term contract to process sensitive health data at a symbolic cost of £1 ($1.29). Other tech companies given access without public disclosure or comment include Google, Microsoft and Faculty AI.

Palantir’s contract was then quietly extended for another two years in December 2020, in a deal believed to be worth around $31.7 million. But the NHS backed down from providing Palantir with a contract beyond the ongoing pandemic without public consultation.

Privacy campaigners claimed the government caved to legal pressure; the NHS maintained that this was always the plan.

In September 2020, the U.K.’s data and privacy watchdog upheld a complaint against the NHS Commissioning Board after the organization failed to disclose data anonymization methods used for providing data to Palantir.

This came before findings that former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who resigned after breaking social distancing guidelines to have an affair with an aide, was found to have acted unlawfully by failing to publish details of government contracts worth billions within the 30 days required by law.

AI Business has contacted Palantir for comment regarding potential conflicts of interest regarding Joshi’s hiring but did not receive a response.

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