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Palantir in Talks With Germany, France for Virus-Fighting Tool

(Bloomberg) -- Data-analytics company Palantir Technologies Inc. is in talks to provide software to governments across Europe to battle the spread of Covid-19 and make strained health-care systems more efficient, a person familiar with the matter said.

The software company is in discussions with authorities in France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the person said, asking not to be identified because the negotiations are private. It already has a deal with the U.K.’s National Health Service, one of a number of big U.S. tech firms drafted in to help curb the pandemic, the government said in a blog entry last week.

Palantir, which got its start doing projects for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, has said its technology can do everything from helping to trace and analyze the spread of the virus to helping hospitals predict staff and supply shortages and finding bottlenecks in the medical supply chain. The company is also telling the prospective customers that it can help countries with plans to exit quarantine measures, the person said.

A spokesperson for Palo Alto, California-based Palantir declined to comment.

European Union Commissioner Thierry Breton said Monday that the bloc is collecting mobile-phone data to help predict epidemic peaks in various member states and help allocate resources.

Palantir has signed a deal with a regional government in Germany, where it already has a 14 million euro ($15 million) contract with law enforcement in North Rhine-Westphalia, the person said. Palantir is also seeking a contract at a national level, the person said, but talks have stalled, the person added.

When a nation or company buys access to Palantir, it can use the data analytics software to pull far-flung digital information into a single repository and mine it for patterns. In the U.S., Palantir has a long-term contract with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and is working with the agency to combat the virus’s spread in the U.S.

Read More: Peter Thiel’s Palantir Spreads Its Tentacles Throughout Europe

Palantir, which has about 800 employees stationed in Europe, has contracts with governments in about 30 countries. It sells two types of solutions: one called Gotham, tailored for intelligence agencies, and Foundry, mainly used by the private sector. Both products are being proposed to health agencies in Europe, sometimes mixing the solutions depending on the clients’ needs, the person said.

Still, the company has run into controversy about how its data-mining capabilities have been used in the past, such as enabling immigration deportation policies championed by U.S. President Trump. The 16-year-old firm would also have to overcome squeamishness from some European governments about using U.S. technology.

In Switzerland, Palantir has approached the Federal Office of Public Health, the person said. In France, the company is in discussions with Paris’s regional hospital authority, two people with knowledge of the talks said. If the Paris talks are successful, the agreement could be extended nationwide, one of the people said.

The Swiss agency receives many such offers, and is expanding the existing system to meet its needs, a spokesman said in an email, declining to comment on talks with Palantir.

A representative for the Paris hospital group didn’t respond to requests for comment. Representatives for the federal health authorities in Germany didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Austria’s Chancellery declined to comment.

Health authorities around the world are looking for ways to use data to keep hospitals running and check the spread of the pandemic as overloaded hospitals run short on supplies for patients and doctors.

The Paris authority, which represents 39 hospitals and is considered the world’s biggest by numbers of patients, started using internal software engineers last week to analyze data on medicines, patient and staff, creating models similar to Palantir’s offers, a person familiar with the program said.

Palantir already has a relationship with the French government. The company won a contract in 2016 to supply its software to France’s domestic intelligence services following terrorist attacks the year before. The agreement was renewed last year.

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