NHS England (NHSE) will investigate whether US data analytics giant Palantir violated the terms of its contract to run the Federated Data Platform (FDP) by launching a covert influencer campaign targeting legal transparency non-profit Good Law Project.

Good Law Project said on its website Saturday that Palantir “was required but failed to seek prior approval from NHSE for its campaign to promote its contract to run the FDP and brief against Good Law Project”.

Bloomberg reported late Friday that NHSE would investigate whether Palantir violated the contract terms just weeks after signing it.

An NHS spokesperson said: “We are looking into this matter. NHS England takes any potential breach of contract by any supplier or other contractual partner seriously – where evidence of a potential breach is presented to us, we investigate and take any necessary action.”

On December 22, NHSE published a heavily redacted version of its 586-page contract with US data giant Palantir to operate the new Federated Data Platform, which blocks out significant parts of the content, including most of the information under the heading “protection of personal data”. 

On the same day that the redacted contract was published the Good Law Project said leaked emails showed Palantir had hired PR agency Topham Guerin to pay influencers to attack Good Law Project on social media.

The non-profit said the approaches to social media influencers were made at arms-length, with the briefing asking influencers not to mention Palantir in their content.

But Good Law Project noted in its statement that one of the non-redacted parts of the contract, covering ‘Publicity and Branding’, states that Palantir is not permitted to use the Authority’s name or brand in any marketing or publicise the contract without the prior written consent of NHS England.

“It’s alarming that Palantir might have breached its contract with NHS England, just weeks after signing it,” Good Law Project Legal Manager Ian Browne told Digital Health. “Even worse, it was to attempt to launder its reputation, after Good Law Project had been questioning Palantir’s suitability to run the Federated Data Platform due to its troubling history.“We welcome NHS England’s confirmation that it will now investigate the matter.“We have also been raising concerns about how the lack of transparency over the handling of patient data could get worse now Palantir is at the helm of the FDP. And these concerns have already been validated by the fact that page after page of the contract – including an important section on the protection of personal data – is so heavily redacted that it is impossible to scrutinise.”

After multiple delays of its announcement, NHSE awarded the £330 million FDP contract to Palantir in late November. The contract award will extend over the course of seven years as more trusts join the platform, with investment of at least £25.6 million expected in the first contract year.