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Campaign launched to get Peter Thiel’s firm out of NHS

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Peter Thiel, co-founder and chairman of Palantir Technologies Inc., pauses during a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, on Monday, Nov. 18, 2019.

Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images

LONDON — A campaign is being launched to try to stop U.S. tech giant Palantir from working with the U.K.’s National Health Service.

The “No Palantir in Our NHS” campaign —launched at an event on Thursday — comes after Palantir partnered with the NHS on a Covid-19 “Data Store.” The project was designed to help the government and health service use data to monitor the spread of the virus.

Foxglove, which describes itself as a tech-justice non-profit, is leading the campaign, while over 50 other organizations working on civil liberties, anti-racism, migrant justice and public health have also backed it.

“We got dozens of organizations to realize and agree that this company has no place in the NHS in the long term,” Cori Crider, the lawyer who co-founded Foxglove, told CNBC on Wednesday.

Palantir, which has been criticized by privacy campaigners and human rights groups on multiple occasions, declined to comment when contacted by CNBC. A spokesperson for the NHS did not respond.

What is Palantir?

Founded in 2003 by a host of tech entrepreneurs including tech billionaire Peter Thiel — a Facebook board member who reportedly donated $1.25 million to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign — Palantir sells software that’s designed to help public and private organizations to analyze huge quantities of data and pull out meaningful patterns and connections.

Since its inception, the $45 billion publicly listed firm, has supported spy agencies, border forces and militaries, with the finer details of contracts often kept a closely guarded secret.

In April 2018, Bloomberg published an article headlined: “Palantir Knows Everything About You.”

Named after the fictional “seeing stones” in “Lord of the Rings,” Palantir has been linked to everything from efforts to track down undocumented Americans to the development of unmanned drones for bombings and intelligence.

“Their background has generally been in contracts where people are harmed, not healed,” Crider said.

Clive Lewis, a U.K. Member of Parliament for the Labour Party and one of the campaign’s backers, accused Palantir of having an “appalling track record.”

“It’s built its business supporting drone and missile strikes, immigration raids and arrests, not the delivery and care of medicine,” Lewis told CNBC. “It’s got a questionable agenda and I think that will have a negative impact on patient trust, particularly among minoritized communities who may feel a threat from big government.”

Palantir — which has been trying to grow its European business in recent years — has a significant presence in London’s Soho neighborhood, with hundreds of employees across multiple offices in the area.

Covid-19 Data Store

The Covid-19 Data Store project, which involves Palantir’s Foundry data management platform, began in March 2020 alongside other tech giants as the government tried to slow the spread of the virus across the U.K. It was sold as a short-term effort to predict how best to deploy resources to deal with the pandemic.

The contract was quietly extended in December when the NHS and Palantir signed a £23 million ($34 million) two-year deal that allows the company to continue its work until December 2022.

The NHS was sued by political website openDemocracy in February over the contract extension. “December’s new, two-year contract reaches far beyond Covid: to Brexit, general business planning and much more,” the group said.

The NHS Covid-19 Data Store contract allows Palantir to help manage the data lake, which contains everybody’s health data for pandemic purposes.

“The reality is, sad to say, all this whiz-bang data integration didn’t stop the United Kingdom having one of the worst death tolls in the western world,” said Crider. “This kind of techno solution-ism is not necessarily the best way of making an NHS sustainable for the long haul.”

Patient data is “pseudonymized” before it is processed by Palantir’s software as part of an effort to protect patient privacy. The data management technique involves switching the original data set, with an alias or pseudonym. However, it is a reversible process that allows for re-identification in the future if necessary and some have questioned whether it’s enough. Palantir may argue that it isn’t interested in the patient data itself and that it only provides the platform that allows the NHS to analyze the data.

While Palantir is processing the patient data, the NHS remains the data owner, limiting what Palantir can do with it.

Pivot to health

There have been some signs that government appetite for limitless spend on security has started to wane and Palantir may have lost a couple of deals as a result, Crider said, pointing to a report in The Guardian that highlights some of the difficulties the EU’s law agency had with Palantir’s software.

Crider believes the firm has been trying to find new sources of government contracts beyond security as a result. “They hit on a new possibility, which was health data,” she said.

The company was reportedly lobbying officials from the U.K. Department of Trade as well as health executives back in 2019. But it struggled to secure any contracts.

When the pandemic hit, however, the laws changed so that data sharing was done in a mandatory way and for the first time in U.K. history everyone’s data was pooled into a huge lake. Procurement rules were also reportedly changed. “Palantir pounced and they managed to get in,” Crider said, adding that there was no bid or competitive tender.

Palantir’s interest in health was highlighted again on Thursday when it emerged in a Financial Times report that the company has taken a strategic stake in British health firm Babylon as part of a $4.2 billion blank-check deal to take the start-up public in the U.S.

Babylon CEO Ali Parsa told the newspaper that “nobody” has brought some of the tech that Palantir owns “into the realm of biology and healthcare.” Parsa, whose app offers a variety of health care services to 24 million patients, added: “Their knowledge of healthcare can overhaul what we could do [together]. We wanted to take … the day to day biometrics of the human body and be able to construct a more pre-emptive image, by building a digital twin of each of us.”

A boy runs past a mural supporting the NHS, by artist Rachel List, on the gates of the Hope & Anchor pub in Pontefract, Yorkshire, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Danny Lawson | Getty Images

Crider believes the U.K. is at an inflexion point when it comes to health data.

From July 1, the NHS is planning to pool the full medical histories of 55 million patients in England into a single database that will be available to academic and third parties for research and planning purposes. Patients have until June 23 to opt out. Campaigners said Friday the “data grab” violates patient trust and they’re threatening to take legal action.

“The British public need to realize that we are now coming into a period where the future of the NHS health data, and the health data settlement of this country, is now kind of up for grabs and up for debate,” Crider said. “Companies have seen it for a while. Palantir don’t want to monetize the data they want to monetize the infrastructure, but there are other companies who absolutely do want to monetize access to the data.”

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Credit Suisse Q2 2021 earnings

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Credit Suisse bank.

NurPhoto | NurPhoto | Getty Images

LONDON — A Credit Suisse investigation into its dealings with the collapsed U.S. hedge fund Archegos Capital revealed Thursday that the Swiss bank had failed “to effectively manage risk.”

The bank’s financial results have been heavily overshadowed by heavy losses following the scandal involving Archegos earlier this year.

“The investigation found a failure to effectively manage risk in the Investment Bank’s Prime Services business by both the first and second lines of defense as well as a lack of risk escalation,” Credit Suisse said as it published the report of the independent external investigation.

“It also found a failure to control limit excesses across both lines of defense as a result of an insufficient discharge of supervisory responsibilities in the Investment Bank and in Risk, as well as a lack of prioritization of risk mitigation and enhancement measures,” the bank also said.

Nonetheless, the investigation concluded that there had not been “fraudulent or illegal conduct” nor ill intent from its side and its employees.

In the wake of the sandal, the head of its investment bank, Brian Chin, and chief risk and compliance officer, Lara Warner, stepped down. The executive board decided to waive bonuses for the 2020 year, and also cut the proposed dividend.

António Horta-Osório, chairman of Credit Suisse, said Thursday: “While the bank has already taken a series of decisive actions to strengthen the risk framework, we are determined to learn all the right lessons and further enhance our control functions.”

Earnings

The outcome of the investigation was published at the same time as the Swiss lender reported its second-quarter results.

Credit Suisse said its net income reached 253 million Swiss francs ($278.3 million) for the three-month period ending June, missing expectations in its own poll of analysts. The stock is down 17% year-to-date.

At the end of the first quarter, Credit Suisse reported a hit of 4.4 billion Swiss francs due to the Archegos saga. However, Credit Suisse said Thursday that it was taking an additional pre-tax loss of 594 million Swiss francs related to the hedge fund collapse.

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How much athletes from 12 countries earn for winning medals

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Hidilyn Diaz of Team Philippines competes during the Weightlifting – Women’s 55kg Group A on day three of the 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo International Forum on July 26, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

Chris Graythen | Getty Images

Why some athletes earn more

More than 600 U.S. athletes are competing at the Tokyo Olympics, and the United States has so far won 11 gold, 11 silver and 9 bronze.

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee rewards athletes $37,500 for every gold medal won, $22,500 for silver and $15,000 for bronze. Most of that prize money is not taxable unless athletes report gross income that exceeds $1 million.

U.S. athletes also receive other forms of support including health insurance, access to top-tier medical facilities and college tuition assistance.

In comparison, Singapore rewards its gold medalists nearly 20 times more than the U.S. Players who clinch their first individual gold medal for the city-state stand to receive 1 million Singapore dollars ($737,000). The prize money is taxable and awardees are required to return a portion of it to their national sports associations for future training and development.

The country sent only 23 athletes to Tokyo.

The sporting economy in the U.S. allows athletes to better monetize their talents as most of it is driven by the private sector, according to Unmish Parthasarathi, founder and executive director at consulting firm Picture Board Partners.

In places like Singapore, India and elsewhere, many of the national sporting initiatives are driven by governments that sometimes use higher monetary rewards to encourage a growing sporting culture, he told CNBC.

Malaysia also has hefty rewards for its Olympic winners.

Athletes who win gold receive 1 million ringgit ($236,149), while silver winners are awarded 300,000 ringgit, and 100,000 ringgit is given to athletes who win bronze. In dollar terms, a Malaysian Olympic bronze winner will receive a higher performance reward than a gold winner from Australia or Canada.

How athletes make money

Beyond receiving monetary and non-monetary rewards from their countries for winning medals, Olympians rely on other revenue streams for their sporting endeavors.

Athletes from bigger, more competitive countries receive stipends or training grants from their national sports associations. Top performers collect prize money by winning national and international tournaments. Others draw regular salary by holding a variety of jobs.

Some, like U.S. badminton player Zhang Beiwen, reportedly relied on crowdsourcing to finance their trip to Tokyo. Most Team USA athletes are not represented by sports agents and some have no sponsors or endorsements at all, according to a Forbes report.

Naomi Osaka of Team Japan serves during her Women’s Singles Third Round match against Marketa Vondrousova of Team Czech Republic on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Tennis Park on July 27, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

David Ramos | Getty Images

A handful of athletes may score multimillion dollar endorsements or sponsorship deals, either before competing at the Olympics or after achieving success in the Games. For example, tennis star Naomi Osaka reportedly made $55 million from endorsements in 12 months, and was named the highest-paid female athlete ever, according to reports.

But scoring lucrative deals is rare, and hardly the norm.

Parthasarathi pointed out that one profitable career move for some athletes is to go into coaching after retirement as people are willing to pay a premium for former Olympians.

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through 2032.

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Facebook requiring U.S. employees to be vaccinated to return to work

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An employee of the Internet company Facebook walks through the courtyard of the company campus in Menlo Park, California.

Christoph Dernbach | picture alliance | Getty Images

Facebook will require U.S. workers returning to its offices to be vaccinated, the company said on Wednesday.

“As our offices reopen, we will be requiring anyone coming to work at any of our US campuses to be vaccinated,” VP of People Lori Goler said in a statement. “How we implement this policy will depend on local conditions and regulations.”

Facebook will create processes for those who can’t be vaccinated for medical or other reasons, Goler said. The company will continue to evaluate its approach outside the U.S., Goler added.

Facebook had already told full-time employees that most of them could continue working from home beyond the pandemic if their jobs could be done remotely.

The news comes after Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees earlier the same day that Google would delay its return to office plans by one month, citing the fast-spreading delta variant. Pichai also said returning workers would have to be vaccinated.

Apple earlier delayed its return to office plans, though it has not come out publicly with a vaccine requirement for workers. The company will require customers and staff to wear masks in many of its U.S. retail stores regardless of vaccination status beginning on Thursday, a person familiar with the matter told CNBC’s Josh Lipton.

Though employer-mandated vaccine requirements seemed rare just a few weeks ago, the rise of the delta variant and new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seem to have played a role in shifting some executives’ thinking.

On Tuesday, the CDC walked back its earlier mask guidance for fully vaccinated people, saying that they should again wear masks indoors in places with high Covid-19 transmission rates. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the change was due to new information on the delta variant, showing that some vaccinated people infected by the strain could continue to spread it to others.

WATCH: Employers weigh Covid vaccine mandates and incentives for employees

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