Health & Fitness

Palantir is reportedly in talks to assist Britain with its beleaguered Covid contact tracing


Peter Thiel, co-founder and chairman of Palantir Technologies Inc., pauses during a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, on Monday, Nov. 18, 2019.

Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images

LONDON – The U.K. government is considering using software from U.S. data analytics firm Palantir for coronavirus contact tracing in England, according to reports from Bloomberg and The Financial Times, citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

Officials are reportedly in talks about using the company’s Foundry software to manage sensitive contact-tracing data on the spread of the virus. It comes after the government failed to report 15,841 positive cases because an Excel spreadsheet containing contact-tracing data reached its maximum size and failed to automatically update.

Governments around the world have rolled out contact-tracing apps with various success. The apps are designed to alert users when they’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. The U.K. app has failed to record potential exposures because the wrong threshold had reportedly been set, while “false alarms” have also been sent to people.

Palantir has been described as the company that “knows everything about you” and its software is used by government surveillance agencies around the world for spying purposes.

A spokesperson for the U.K.’s Department of Health and Social Care told CNBC that it is “committed to the highest ethical and data governance standards.”

They added: “Personal data can only be seen by people who need it to have access to it, for example to carry out contact tracing.”

Palantir did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

Read the full story on Bloomberg here and on The Financial Times here.


Katherine Clark