Protesters blockade office of tech giant with NHS contract over ties to Israel

21 December 2023, 11:04

Palantir blockade
Palantir blockade. Picture: PA

Dozens of pro-Palestine demonstrators blocked the entrance to Palantir in central London.

Demonstrators blockaded the central London office of US tech giant Palantir after it was awarded a contract worth hundreds of millions of pounds for a new NHS data platform.

The NHS Federated Data Platform (FDP) will aim to make it easier for health and care organisations to work together and provide better services to patients.

It was announced earlier this year that a group led by Palantir had secured the £330 million contract to provide the new shared software system.

But concerns have been raised about how patient data will be used and Palantir’s involvement with the Israeli government which critics claim it provides intelligence services to.

Dozens of pro-Palestine protesters and health workers gathered at Palantir’s UK headquarters on Soho Square early on Thursday morning, where they accused the firm of being “complicit” in war crimes.

They held placards reading, “Palantir aids apartheid” and chanted, “Palantir – blood on your hands”.

The firm has been contacted by the PA news agency.

Alia Al Ghussain, a British human rights researcher whose uncle was killed by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, claimed Palantir provides “predictive policing” to Israel.

The 32-year-old, who is of Palestinian descent, said: “Palantir provides intelligence and surveillance services to the Israeli military, including a form of predictive policing.

“That’s not just going to affect people in Gaza but those in the West Bank, which is under occupation and has seen a huge rise in violence since October 7.

“The NHS is probably the best thing about this country, it’s really an expression of our common humanity.

“Palantir is totally antithetical to that.

“I don’t think it has any place in the NHS.”

Jessica, a nurse and member of Health Workers for a Free Palestine, said: “It should be unthinkable for the NHS to do grubby deals with a company which is complicit in, and profiting from, Israel’s systematic destruction of healthcare facilities, resulting in the killing of more healthcare workers in the last ten weeks than the total number killed in all countries in conflict globally last year.

“The entire purpose of the NHS is the preservation of life. As health workers we cannot turn a blind eye to the health service being implicated in the ongoing genocide in Gaza and the slaughter of our colleagues – fellow nurses, doctors, dentists, medical students and other health workers – and their patients.

Palantir blockade
Health workers formed a blockade from 7am on Thursday (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“We’re here to blockade and disrupt Palantir’s blood-soaked business, and we will continue mobilising until NHS England agrees to keep our NHS data out of bloodstained hands.”

Last month Steve Brine, chairman of the Health and Social Care Committee and a Tory MP, said there were “substantial concerns” about the company’s involvement with the NHS.

He called for “more transparency and better communication about what this platform will do and how their data will be used”.

Louis Mosley, Palantir’s executive vice-president for the UK and Europe, previously defended the company’s involvement in the NHS.

“Data security and the ability to precisely control who can see what information can be a matter of life and death,” he told the Times.

He said that the “software enables NHS professionals to bring together data that a hospital already holds in multiple different systems that haven’t historically been able to talk to each other, while ensuring that staff only see information if they need to, in order to do their job”.

Palantir was co-founded by billionaire tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel, who was an early backer of former US president Donald Trump, and has worked with the US government.

It will be supported by Accenture, PwC, NECS and Carnall Farrar on the NHS contract.

NHS England has said that “no company involved in the Federated Data Platform can access health and care data without the explicit permission of the NHS”.

By Press Association

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