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NHS to investigate Palantir after spy tech firm plotted influencer marketing campaign to counter critics

THE NHS is set to probe potential contract breaches by US spy tech firm Palantir after the company plotted an influencer marketing campaign to shut down criticism from campaigners.

Palantir failed to seek prior approval from NHS England for a marketing campaign promoting its £330 million contract to run a data platform for the health service. 

The contract sparked fierce criticism from campaigners who cited privacy concerns over sharing medical data with the secretive firm, which was first funded by the CIA.

According to leaked emails, Palantir hired PR agency Topham Guerin, which previously ran campaigns for the Conservative Party, and marketing agency Disrupt, to approach influencers.

The brief outlined a campaign to “clear up misinformation relating to some recent data privacy concerns that were shared in the UK press.”

It went on to accuse The Good Law Project, which flagged concerns over safeguarding data, of “spreading fear.”

The influencers were asked to specify their fees for posting a video and a follow-up tweet to “raise awareness about Palantir’s contract with the NHS.”

Influencers were told they must “keep the brand confidential and not tag Palantir.”

The Federated Data Platform contract was published just before Christmas. 

While much of it is redacted, the publicity and branding section stipulates that Palantir is not to use NHS England’s name or branding in any marketing without prior consent. 

NHS England confirmed to Bloomberg on Saturday that it will now be investigating whether Palantir violated the contract terms.

Good Law Project’s executive director Jo Maugham said: “Palantir is not — and frankly never has been — a company that can be trusted with this nationally important contract with our NHS.

“By its own behaviour it is telling us exactly that.

“Within weeks, it commissioned a covert smear campaign against a prominent critic and appears to have broken the terms of that contract. 

“If this government won’t act to protect the national interest, the next one must.”

Palantir told Bloomberg that the campaign was an “exploratory project” so it did not need to consult NHS England. 

The Good Law Project accuses Palantir of having no intention of seeking consent, as campaign materials were dated November 28 and influencers were told there was a “tight deadline” with the campaign aiming to go live before the new year.

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