One Rule for the Rich

… is to get rich quick.

Following on from Dominic Cummings blatant disregard for the lockdown rules imposed by this Tory Government that he engineered a fraudlent win last December, it has emerged from the Bureau of Investigation conflicts of interest between Cummings and the AI Health firms receiving government cash.

It reports

Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s most senior aide, is facing conflict of interest accusations over a publicly undisclosed consultancy job at a healthcare start-up endorsed by the government and in pole position to receive cash from a £250m NHS fund.

Cummings advised Babylon Health, a controversial AI start-up, on its communications strategy and senior recruitment just months before its “GP at Hand” app was publicly backed by Matt Hancock, the health secretary…

“The links between Dominic Cummings in the heart of Downing Street, the health secretary and this AI health firm are increasingly murky and highly irresponsible,” the shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said. “Mr Cummings’ work for this company raises serious questions about a potential conflict of interest given the firm could be in line to receive public money from this new £250m AI fund… Cummings should come clean on any other consultancy work he did before entering Downing Street so the public can have confidence that there are no other conflict of interest issues at play.”

Babylon confirmed Cummings was paid via his company, Dynamic Maps Ltd, which he set up in October 2017 as the sole director…

Babylon had been repeatedly boosted by Matt Hancock, who even promised to help change rules to benefit the company. At his visit to the company in September 2018, soon after his appointment as health secretary, he told staff how much he admired their work.

Bureau of Investigation

Big Data and Privacy Concerns

Under a recent relaxation of data-sharing restrictions, private companies can now be granted access to NHS patient data for valid Covid-19 purposes.

One company to note is Palantir. It has been accused of having its data-mining technology used for questionable purposes. Examples include a system used by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to separate immigrant families and the use of its software in predictive policing tools by the Los Angeles Police Department. In 2018, Palantir admitted that an employee had helped Cambridge Analytica build its data-harvesting app in 2013-14…

Previously confidential NHS data could not be put under the control of anyone who was not a healthcare professional without a legal basis.

Doubts are growing about what happens once the coronavirus crisis is over. One insider told the Bureau: “I can understand why they are using Palantir, it has incredible software.” But they said they were concerned that the company was not known for being the most open and added: “I’d like to see it build a parallel system – so [the Palantir system] can get switched off when it is not needed anymore.”

Natalie Banner, lead on the Understanding Patient Data programme at the medical research charity Wellcome, said that the public do not object to private companies working with the health service as long as benefits to patients and the NHS are clearly prioritised. “The NHS can benefit from the capacity and technical expertise of technology companies, for example to build the data store,” she said.

Crucially, technology companies that work with the NHS during this crisis will develop a better understanding of the UK’s health data infrastructure, “which could give them an advantage in future discussions about providing services to the NHS”.

Rachel Coldicutt, former chief executive of the technology ethics think tank Doteveryone, said that: “Public services, funded by public money, must be open to public scrutiny – especially in times of great upheaval when lots of decisions are being made very quickly.

“Publishing the specification that Palantir is working to and appointing an emergency governance committee to give external oversight would help maintain trust in this volatile period.”

According to Wired, some 40 tech companies were present at a meeting with No 10 advisor Dominic Cummings in Downing Street on 12 March. Among their ranks were said to be several who have got the Covid-related health contracts, as well as the AI start-up Babylon Health.

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