The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded a contract to build a federal COVID-19 tracking database to Palantir, a data surveillance firm founded by venture capitalist and cannabis investor Peter Thiel. Thiel is one of the investors behind Privateer Holdings, which owns the cannabis brand Marley Naturals and formerly owned Leafly; Thiel is also President Trump’s most prominent supporter in Silicone Valley.
The COVID-19 tracking database is named “HHS Protect Now” and will rely on data entered by medical facilities, universities, and national, state and local authorities, the Daily Beast reports.
“Trace, track and isolate” is an essential strategy needed to re-open the economy in light of the current COVID-19 crisis, many experts say.
“HHS Protect Now” will include 187 data entry fields, including information like hospital capacity and inventories, supply chain data from the government and industry, diagnostic and geographic testing data, demographic statistics, and state policy actions.” According to the Daily Beast report, President Trump and the COVID-19 task force lead Dr. Deborah Birx have already started using data collected on the platform in the president’s daily COVID-19 press briefings.
“We are using the data aggregated… to paint a picture for the Task Force, and state and local leaders to show the impact of their strategic decisions. For instance, if there are a number of cases concentrated at a hospital next to an airport and a mass transit stop, we can build a predictive model using a transmission chain to predict how quickly the disease will spread, taking into account these factors.” — HHS spokesperson statement, via the Daily Beast
In 2015, Thiel’s venture capital firm “The Founders Fund” made waves by investing heavily in Privateer Holdings, the Seattle-based cannabis investment firm behind many major cannabis brands including Marley Natural, Leafly, and Tilray.
Thiel was a co-founder of PayPal and was the first Silicon Valley mogul to endorse Donald Trump for president in 2016. He has pledged to support President Trump’s re-election in 2020, leading many to question the White House’s choice of Palantir to build out the tracking database.
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