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UK’s COVID-19 health data contracts with Google and Palantir finally emerge

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UK’s COVID-19 health data contracts with Google and Palantir finally emerge

Contracts for quite a lot of coronavirus information offers that the U.Ok. authorities inked in haste with U.S. tech giants, together with Google and Palantir, plus a U.Ok.-based AI agency referred to as Faculty, have been printed at the moment by openDemocracy and legislation agency Foxglove — which had threatened authorized motion for withholding the knowledge.

Concerns had been raised about what’s an unprecedented switch of well being information on tens of millions of U.Ok. residents to personal tech corporations, together with these with a business curiosity in buying information to coach and construct AI fashions. Freedom of Information requests for the contracts had been deferred thus far.

In a weblog put up at the moment, openDemocracy and Foxglove write that the info retailer contracts present tech corporations had been “initially granted mental property rights (together with the creation of databases), and had been allowed to coach their fashions and revenue off their unprecedented entry to NHS information.”

“Government attorneys have now claimed {that a} subsequent (undisclosed) modification to the contract with Faculty has cured this downside, nonetheless they haven’t launched the additional contract. openDemocracy and Foxglove are demanding its instant launch,” they add.

The massive story, to date, is that the unique agreements didn't shield IP very properly. AI corporations like Faculty might simply have profited off their unprecedented entry to NHS information. HMG say they fastened it after our FOI, however haven't given us the model they are saying cures the issue. https://t.co/Fd2EKeIDH9

— Foxglove (@Foxglovelegal) June 5, 2020

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They additionally say the contracts present that the phrases of at the least one of many offers — with Faculty — had been modified “after preliminary calls for for transparency beneath the Freedom of Information Act.”

They have printed PDFs of the unique contracts for Faculty, Google, Microsoft and Palantir. Amazon Web Services was additionally contracted by the NHS to supply cloud internet hosting companies for the info retailer.

An excerpt from the Faculty contract relating to IP rights

Back in March, as concern in regards to the looming influence of COVID-19 on the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) took maintain, the federal government revealed plans for the well being service to work with the aforementioned tech corporations to develop a “information platform” — to assist coordinate its response, touting the “energy” of “safe, dependable and well timed information” to tell “efficient” pandemic selections.

However the federal government’s lack of transparency round such huge well being information offers with business tech giants — together with the controversial agency Palantir, which has a observe document of working with intelligence and legislation enforcement businesses to trace people, equivalent to supplying tech to ICE to assist deportations — raises main flags.

As does the continuing failure by the federal government to publish the amended contracts — with the claimed tightened IP clauses.

The (now printed, authentic) Google contract — to supply “technical, advisory and different help” to NHSX to deal with COVID-19 — is dated March 1, and specifies that companies shall be offered by Google to the NHS for zero cost. 

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The Palantir contract, for provision of its Foundry information administration platform companies, is dated as starting March 12 and expiring June 11 — with the corporate charging a mere £1 ($1.27) for companies offered.

While the Faculty contract — offering “strategic help to the NHSX AI Lab” — has a worth in extra of £1M (together with VAT), and an earlier graduation date (February 3), with an expiry date of August 3.

The authorities introduced its plan to launch an AI Lab inside NHSX, the digital transformation department of the well being service, just below a yr in the past — saying then that it will plough in £250 million to use AI to healthcare associated challenges, and touting the potential for “earlier most cancers detection, discovering new remedies and relieving the workload on our NHS workforce.”

The lab had been slated to start out spending on AI in 2021. Yet the Faculty contract, through which the AI agency is offering “strategic help to the NHSX AI Lab,” and described as an “AI Lab Strategic Partner,” suggests the pandemic nudged the federal government to speed up its plan.

We’ve reached out to the Department of Health with questions.

Last month, NHS England and NHS Improvement responded to an FOI request that TechCrunch filed in early April asking for the contracts — however solely to say a response was delayed, already round a month after our authentic request. (The regular response time for U.Ok. FOIs is inside 20 working days, though the legislation permits for “an affordable extension of time to contemplate the general public curiosity check.”)

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Earlier this month, The Telegraph reported that Google-owned DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman — who has since moved over to work for Google in a coverage function — was quickly taken on by the NHS in March, in a professional bono advisory capability that reportedly included discussing the way to acquire affected person information.

An NHSX spokesperson informed Digital Health that Suleyman had “volunteered his time and experience without spending a dime to assist the NHS through the best public well being menace in a century,” and denied there had been any battle of curiosity.

The latter refers to the truth that when Suleyman was nonetheless main DeepMind the corporate inked quite a lot of data-sharing agreements with NHS Trusts — having access to affected person well being information as a part of an app growth venture. One of those contracts, with the Royal Free NHS Trust, was subsequently discovered to have breached U.Ok. information safety legislation. Regulators mentioned sufferers couldn’t have “fairly anticipated” their data to be shared for this objective. The Trust was additionally reprimanded over an absence of transparency.

Google has since taken over DeepMind’s well being division and brought on many of the contracts it had inked with the NHS — regardless of Suleyman’s prior insistence that NHS affected person information wouldn’t be shared with Google.

 

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