Government Gives Controversial Trump-Linked Data Firm £20 MillionContract to Monitor UK’s Borders
Palantir, a tech giant that holds US Government contracts worth more than $1.5 billion, is extending its tentacles across the Atlantic
The controversial CIA-backed tech firm that collects data on undocumented migrants on behalf of US border patrol has been awarded a contract worth more than £20 million to monitor the UK’s borders.
Established in the wake of 9/11 with the help of a $2 million CIA incubator, Palantir is now valued at $22 billion after a public stock offering in September. Its co-founder, PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel, is one of Silicon Valley’s few vocal supporters of President Donald Trump and even donated to his 2016 election campaign.
Now, the company has established its influence in the UK, winning a contract in August from the Cabinet Office for the ‘Provision of Border and Customs Management Services – Technical Feasibility Evaluation (TFE) and Initialisation’.
The contract states that Palantir will provide “a suite of tools for the visualisations of data and analysis, and the creation of action-recommendation workflows based on a data asset of close-to-real time data related to the volume of consignments crossing the UK border”.
In short, Palantir will compile data from systems at the Home Office, HM Revenue and Customs and other participating departments, analysing the flow of goods at and around the UK border.
The Data Rush
This is one of several new Government contracts awarded to Palantir.
In April, Byline Times reported that it was one of five technology firms awarded a controversial contract allowing ministers and senior health officials to mine confidential data from tens of thousands of COVID-19 hospital patients.
Earlier this month, the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) revealed a list of tech and data experiments taking place in the UK and abroad to address the COVID-19 crisis. A number of these experiments mention Palantir.
Indeed, the tech giant – which holds contracts with US federal authorities worth $1.5 billion – has been employed by the UK Government to build a platform that will track the “supply and demand” of staff and assets across the NHS. The project is currently under construction with NHSX – the digital arm of the health service – and is yet to be launched.
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Technology developed by Palantir during the early months of the pandemic is also set to be deployed by local NHS services, according to the CDEI – an independent advisory body to the Government.
The report states that a forecasting platform constructed and operated by Palantir and Faculty AI is “to be made available to local NHS organisations”. Faculty, an artificial intelligence firm, worked on the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 EU Referendum.
Another contract published by the Government revealed that NHS Arden and Greater East Midlands will be integrating Palantir’s ‘Foundry’ data management platform for a trial period of up to six months – costing more than £1 million. According to the tender document, Palantir has created a “COVID-19 Data Store” that it calls a “single source of truth” for the Coronavirus pandemic.
There have been concerns about Palantir’s access to such a large amount of Government data, considering that the firm uses disparate federal information to assist the deportation of migrants in the US.
However, the new border contract states that Palantir must not transmit or disseminate any data to any other person or entity unless specifically authorised by the Cabinet Office – which is run by Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove.
In addition, Palantir must perform appropriate checks on its staff before they can participate in the provision and/or the management of the border flow service, and ensure that only the minimum number of staff required have access. A written list must be maintained of all staff having such access, along with their clearance levels, and it must be provided to the Cabinet Office.
The Cabinet Office did not respond to Byline Times when asked to confirm whether the contract was linked to the UK’s post-border Brexit and data collection needs. Palantir also provided no response.
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