- Palantir is providing the CDC with software to help it monitor the spread of COVID-19 and assess how hospitals are dealing with spikes in new cases, Forbes reported Tuesday.
- Palantir’s software uses data from hospitals and public health agencies — such as test results, bed capacity, and ventilator supply — to give the CDC insight into where additional resources are needed, according to Forbes.
- The tool resembles one Palantir built for the UK’s top health agency and has raised significant privacy concerns, with sources telling Forbes that, while it uses anonymized data currently, personally identifiable information could be used in the future.
- Palantir, a secretive big data company, built has been slammed by critics for using its technology to assist ICE with tracking and deporting immigrants.
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Big data firm Palantir is providing the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with software to help it monitor the coronavirus pandemic, Forbes reported Tuesday.
The tool uses data such as lab test results, hospital bed capacity, and ventilator supply, gathered from hospitals and health agencies, to help the CDC assess where the virus is spreading (or could spread to) and how best to allocate limited resources, according to Forbes.
While sources told Forbes the tool currently uses anonymized data, they also said personally identifiable information could be used in the future, raising significant privacy concerns.
Palantir, in partnership with Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, has built a similar tool for the UK’s National Healthcare Service, which relies on Palantir’s front-end software, Google’s data collection capabilities, and Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. The BBC reported that Amazon is involved in the project too, although specific details were not given.
Palantir, which was last valued at $20 billion and counts Peter Thiel and the CIA among its investors, has a checkered history. The company operates under the radar and has come under fire from immigrant rights groups for its work helping Immigrations and Customs Enforcement track and deport immigrants. In late 2019, it took up a military contract with the Pentagon previously abandoned by Google after employees protested it was unethical.
“Palantir have a poor reputation, as engaging in activities which threaten personal privacy and may lead to other human rights abuses,” Jim Killock, executive director of UK pro-privacy organization Open Rights Group, said in a press statement last week.
Privacy concerns have come to the forefront amid the coronavirus pandemic, with tech companies like Palantir, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Zoom, and others eager to offer technology solutions despite potential worries about how data will be used or shared, especially after the immediate need for COVID-19 surveillance subsides.
Palantir, the CDC, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon could not immediately be reached for comment.
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