The UK government has announced its contract with private technology companies and the NHS for the creation of COVID-19 data storage,media reported. It comes just days after the campaign filed a lawsuit over the lack of transparency. According to the openDemocracy website, the contracts describe how the NHS’s arrangements with Amazon, Microsoft, Google and artificial intelligence companies, Morgan and Palantir, which are subcontracted to AWS, will work.
Foxglove and OpenDemocracy, the campaign group that filed the lawsuit, said the documents showed that before being challenged, the technology companies were arranged to build data models from NHS training data for commercial purposes.
“Importantly, the contract shows that the terms of at least one transaction, artificial intelligence firm Faculty, were originally changed after requesting transparency under the Freedom of Information Act,” the groups said. The contract shows that companies, including Faculty and Palantir, were initially granted intellectual property rights (including creating databases) and were allowed to train their models and profit from their unprecedented access to NHS data. “
However, the UK government did not publish a follow-up contract, which it claimed addressed the issue of data being used for private sector gain. “OpenDemocracy and Foxglove have requested that it be released immediately,” the two organizations said. “
In May, campaign groups wrote to Matt Hancock, the health secretary, calling on the government to be more open in embracing private-sector technology companies, which contract to provide data storage and dashboards as part of the NHS response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Organisations including Liberty, OpenDemocracy, Foxglove and Privacy International say public commitments to the role of multiple private-sector technology companies in processing health data for millions of British citizens have not been fulfilled.
In March, the British government said it would develop a platform to provide “safe, reliable and timely data” to national organisations responsible for coordinating responses to the outbreak.
Amazon, Google and Microsoft are all on the list of signatories, along with Britain’s Palantir Technologies, which is controversially analyzed by Peter Thiel, and London-based artificial intelligence firm Faculty, which was involved in the Brexit referendum.
OpenDemocracy said it hoped the announcement of the contracts would help experts analyse them and support public debate.
In another case, campaignerS Open Rights has commissioned lawyers to file a complaint with the UK’s data watchdog over the introduction of the testing and tracking system, which it says breached the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).