Data analytics company Palantir Technologies (NYSE:PLTR) is reportedly in talks with the United Kingdom about helping manage the country's struggling test-and-trace coronavirus program.
The U.K. system put in place to try to better manage the pandemic and allow the British economy to reopen has been plagued by IT glitches and slow turnaround times. The tech issues have been blamed by some critics of the U.K. government for helping to lead to a spike in new cases. That spike has in turn caused the government to impose new national lockdown measures.
The Financial Times reported today that the government is in discussions with Palantir about using the company's Foundry software to help manage sensitive contact-tracing data. Government officials hope the software will allow them to manage data on who is testing positive and whom they have been in contact with more quickly, which over time could provide deeper insight into how the virus is spreading.
A contract with the U.K. government would put the often-controversial Palantir in the middle of a new fight. Civil liberties advocates have decried any private company having access to the U.K.'s extensive data on individuals' interactions and traffic patterns.
Palantir, with a history of working with U.S. immigration officials and intelligence and defense customers, is already in the crosshairs of activists and could attract additional scrutiny of the U.K.'s efforts if it is involved.