UK health privacy watchdog still in talks over who is accessing country’s COVID data store

More than two years after England launched a COVID data store, keeping details of National Health Service (NHS) patients, the country’s National Data Guardian (NDG) remains unsatisfied with who is accessing the data.

The COVID-19 data store was launched in March 2020, and would pull together medical and operational data about the spread of the virus across the country.

Campaigners had to force the UK government to publish details of the contract supporting the project awarded to AWS, Microsoft, Google, Brexit-linked analytics business Faculty, and Palantir, whose technology has been employed by the CIA and controversial US immigration agency ICE. Palantir’s data platform uses data from the COVID data store.

Only in August 2021 did NHS England and NHS Improvement publish a “data dissemination register” to show who had accessed medical information on the data store. At the time, critics and the National Data Guardian – the privacy watchdog for health data – were not satisfied with the response.

Nearly a year later, despite a further release of data access details, that remains the case.

In a statement to The Register, Dr Nicola Byrne – the National Data Guardian for health and adult social care in England – said it was continuing dialog with NHS England over the release of details.

“It is essential that there is transparency around who gets access to health and care data and for what purposes. The merger of NHS Digital into NHS England and the shift towards data access in secure data

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