Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The little-known companies that underpin millions of transactions on and off the internet probably know more about you than your closest relatives or friends.

Why it matters: Data brokers have been around for decades, but they've grown increasingly powerful in the internet era due to their ability to instantaneously capture information about people as they surf the web.

  • Most brokers buy and sell "third-party" data, meaning they collect user information, even though they don't have a direct relationship with that user.
  • Big web publishers, like Facebook, Google or even popular news sites, often buy data from data brokers to sell better-targeted ads.

The big picture: Facebook's Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal last year shed light on just how murky those transactions can be, and how invasive it can feel to consumers who are largely unaware of the ways their data is being harvested.

  • A new Vermont law requires that data brokers register with the government, revealing 121 data brokers that mine everything from political affiliations to credit scores.

Yes, but: Despite increased scrutiny, data brokers are doing just fine.

  • Acxiom and Experian — two of the largest data brokers — have seen financial gains over the past year.
  • Equifax, a U.S.-based credit data company that experienced a massive breach in 2017, has largely recovered financially from the snafu, and Congress hasn't meaningfully addressed the incident.

Go deeper

Justice Department sues Google over alleged search monopoly

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The Justice Department and 11 states Tuesday filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google, accusing the company of using anticompetitive tactics to illegally monopolize the online search and search advertising markets.

Why it matters: The long-awaited suit is Washington's first major blow against the tech giants that many on both the right and left argue have grown too large and powerful. Still, this is just step one in what could be a lengthy and messy court battle.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Americans feel Trump's sickness makes him harder to trustFlorida breaks record for in-person early voting.
  2. Health: The next wave is gaining steam.
  3. Education: Schools haven't become hotspots.
  4. World: Ireland moving back into lockdown — Argentina becomes 5th country to report 5 million infections.

In photos: Florida breaks record for in-person early voting

Voters wait in line at John F. Kennedy Public Library in Hialeah, Florida on Oct. 19. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/AFP via Getty Images

More Floridians cast early ballots for the 2020 election on Monday than in the first day of in-person early voting in 2016, shattering the previous record by over 50,000 votes, Politico reports.

The big picture: Voters have already cast over 31 million ballots in early voting states as of Tuesday, per the U.S. Elections Project database by Michael McDonald, an elections expert at the University of Florida.