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UK Gov Contract Awarded to Vote Leave AI Firm, Faculty

David Paul

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Faculty

The company, which also has ties to the Prime Minister’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings, has secured at least nine contracts over the last 18 months.

Artificial intelligence firm, Faculty, which has close ties to the Vote Leave campaign and senior Tory figures, has been awarded a new coronavirus support contract by the UK Government.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) confirmed the appointment of Faculty last month after a competitive bid round contained no other competitors.

As part of the £400,000 contract, Faculty says it may have to analyse information such as credit rating scores, social media data and utility bills to help the government deal with Covid-19, according to a partially-redacted copy of the contract.

A spokesperson for the MHCLG said the redacted information related to sensitive data held by the ministry.

“Faculty is helping MHCLG to analyse data in real-time allowing the department to monitor the impact of Covid-19 on local communities and respond to emerging issues at pace,” the spokesperson said.

Concerns have been raised over the use of personal data by private companies during Covid-19. Many contracts have been awarded hastily and without review to speed up the process as the country continues to battle the virus.

In a statement, the ministry said that there was an “urgent need to bring in additional analytics support to help inform our response to the coronavirus pandemic”.

According to reports in the Guardian, Faculty has links with senior Tory figures including government adviser Dominic Cummings.

Ben Warner, a data scientist at Faculty, was recruited by Cummings to work at Downing Street. His brother, Marc, who serves as CEO at Faculty, is believed to have attended Sage committee meetings with Cummings.

Faculty’s AI tech has also previously been used for polling analysis by the Vote Leave campaign, run by Cummings.

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Technology campaign group Foxglove has threatened legal action against the government for its increased use of private organisations and use of private data to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

In April, the organisation teamed up with journalism site openDemocracy to act to “protect the NHS’s vast stores of health data from exploitation at the hands of private companies.”

They requested that the government release copies of data sharing agreements signed with the companies involved in the government’s “Covid-19 datastore” which included Faculty.

“We haven’t seen the contracts, we haven’t seen the data-sharing agreements,” said Cori Crider, the director of Foxglove.

“We don’t know what they’re permitted to do with [the data].”

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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