UK's National Health Service Plans To Use Big Data Analysis To Fight COVID-19 — With The Help Of Palantir

from the history-has-its-eye-on-us dept

It’s clear that digital technology will play a key role in helping to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, whether as a way of disseminating information, telecommuting, or of keeping people entertained during lockdowns. Less welcome is the use of advanced surveillance and tracking techniques to monitor the movements of people to see if they are obeying quarantine restrictions. Another obvious way to apply technology is to manage the key resources being used to tackle it. That’s what the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is doing:

The NHS is preparing to unveil a “data platform” which tracks the movement of critical staff and materials, giving ministers the first ever comprehensive view of the entire health system, Sky News can reveal.

Items tracked include the capacity of emergency departments; the number of calls to the NHS helpline; and the number and location of beds, ventilators and NHS staff. It is clearly crucially important to have a clear, real-time picture of all of these in order to manage this fast-moving disease as effectively as possible. The problem with this major new database and its associated dashboard is that the digital side of things is being handled by Palantir, which has become synonymous with high-tech government surveillance in both the US and further afield. Its move into analyzing health data is potentially concerning given the highly-personal nature of the information it will be handling. It is also likely to be the first of many such moves, rather than just a one-off. NHSX, the NHS “innovation unit” managing the project, is well-aware of Palantir’s reputation and the worries its participation will engender. It is taking steps to head those off:

Despite the speed at which it has been forced to work, NHSX says it has taken full account of both data protection legislation and privacy concerns. The system removes identifiers such as names and addresses in order to keep the data as anonymous as possible. NHSX has also committed to closing the data agreements and removing or destroying the data once the pandemic abates.

Although sensitive personal health data is used to inform the dashboard, it is stored by Public Health England, and only provided to Palantir in an aggregated form

Palantir, too, knows that people will be worried by its move into healthcare. It has issued its own “Best practices for using data during a crisis“, which concludes: “history has its eye on us”.

We must not blindly accept the mantra of “desperate times call for desperate measures,” but instead forge solutions that can survive a return to normalcy and not fundamentally alter our societal values. Any exceptional measures must be clearly justified by the facts and conditions of the moment but, also, in enacting them, build in mechanisms for rolling them back after the crisis and soberly evaluating the extent to which they were necessary and how we can do better next time. This is an emergency — perhaps the defining one of our age. In acting decisively to defeat this pandemic, we must do so in a way that we will recognize ourselves when it’s done.

Those are noble sentiments. Let’s hope the reality matches them.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: palantir

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “UK's National Health Service Plans To Use Big Data Analysis To Fight COVID-19 — With The Help Of Palantir”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
27 Comments

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

We know how to deal with this emergency. In the midst of the Chinese coronavirus crisis, about five-in-six American adults said they want to see the United States end all immigration from Mexico.

The latest Harvard/Harris Poll asks Americans whether they would support or oppose an immigration moratorium on Mexico during the coronavirus crisis. Overall, 83 percent — or five-in-six — said they favor ending all immigration from Mexico at the moment.

Fuck you open border/open source assholes.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

You do realize that the outbreak of coronavirus in the United States was likely started either by international tourists coming into the country or American citizens returning from other countries where outbreaks had already happened, right? If anything, the United States should be closing our borders not to keep other people out (though that isn’t necessarily a bad idea at the moment), but to keep Americans in so they don’t go infecting the rest of the world like a lot of American Christians are infecting their own damn country by continuing to hold large gatherings in churches.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not a damn country. A great country.

Maybe you should leave your mom’s basement and go outside. During the Spanish flu epidemic, they ran out of hospital beds fast and put the overflow outside in large open ish tents. The patients outside did better with the fresh air and sunlight than ones in the hospital.

Might not help you, though, being infected with socialist dimentia and all. Good luck in your recovery, though. We’re all rootin for ya. Not.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

During the Spanish flu epidemic, they ran out of hospital beds fast and put the overflow outside in large open ish tents. The patients outside did better with the fresh air and sunlight than ones in the hospital.

  1. [citation needed]
  2. During the Spanish flu epidemic, about 28% of the population of the United States (then approximately 105 million) became infected, and upwards of 675,000 people died. I’m not sure you want those numbers for coronavirus, no matter how badly Trump wants to hang a “mission accomplished” banner above a field of dead bodies.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"In the midst of the Chinese coronavirus crisis, about five-in-six American adults said they want to see the United States end all immigration from Mexico."

Well, that does confirm what sort of idiot racists they are in that case, since not only is the disease not coming from Mexico, but Mexico has a significantly lower infection rate than the US. Looking at today’s stats, Mexico has 1/16 the amount of infections than the US, and only 28 deaths.

You’re making a point. Just not the one you’re trying to.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Citation needed regarding the accuracy of Mexico’s diagnosis of Covid as well as the accuracy and completeness of their data reporting."

I’m using the same central source for all confirmed figures (Johns Hopkins). Provide your source that says they are not accurately reporting.

But, here we are again with the idiot brigade. They react to a disease that originated in China and spread largely through air travel via Asia and Europe by attacking the Mexican border. When faced with data that shows their idiots for doing that, all they have is a "nuh uh I don’t believe the facts".

I hope that your ridiculously misguided actions do not cause too many American deaths that could have been preventable if only your country wasn’t staffed by incompetent racist idiots. But, sadly, the number of needless deaths will not be zero, and the blood will be on American, not Mexican, hands.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"You accuse over 80% of the U.S. population of being racists based on data from Mexico"

No, I accuse them of being racists because they think that the solution to a pandemic that’s entering the country via ports and airports from Asia and Europe is to close the Mexican land border. That makes zero sense unless you consider that they’re racist morons.

Assuming your claimed survey is close to accurate, at least. I suspect you’re being fed some cherry-picked Fox fiction.

"Slimy is as slimy does."

Yes, and the slimy guy supposedly in charge of your country is actively getting his citizens killed because he’s still obsessed with a wall that will do absolutely nothing effectively, virus or no virus.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

" In the midst of the Chinese coronavirus crisis … "
Oh, you mean the TrumpVirus?

"about five-in-six American adults said they want to …"
they want to survive the trumpvirus while others are willing to sacrifice their meager existence for the benefit of the bottom line (haha, no they aren’t)

"Fuck you open border/open source assholes."
Well – fuck you too. Have a nice day 🙂

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...