Peter Thiel sitting at an interview. Photo: Adam Jeffery/CNBC Photo Bank via Getty Images

Palantir, a data-mining company created by Peter Thiel, is aiding government agencies by tracking American citizens using the War on Terror, as detailed in Bloomberg's Businessweek cover story.

How it works: The software analyzes items such as financial documents, cellphone records, social media posts and reservations to find connections human analysts may miss.

The backdrop:

  • "Founded in 2004 by Peter Thiel and some fellow PayPal alumni, Palantir cut its teeth working for the Pentagon and the CIA in Afghanistan and Iraq."
  • "The company’s engineers and products don’t do any spying themselves; they’re more like a spy’s brain, collecting and analyzing information that’s fed in from the hands, eyes, nose, and ears."
  • "The software combs through disparate data sources — financial documents, airline reservations, cellphone records, social media postings — and searches for connections that human analysts might miss. It then presents the linkages in colorful, easy-to-interpret graphics that look like spider webs."
  • "People and objects pop up on the Palantir screen inside boxes connected to other boxes by radiating lines labeled with the relationship: 'Colleague of,' 'Lives with,' 'Operator of [cell number],' 'Owner of [vehicle],' 'Sibling of,' even 'Lover of.'"

Who's using it:

  • "The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services uses Palantir to detect Medicare fraud. The FBI uses it in criminal probes. The Department of Homeland Security deploys it to screen air travelers and keep tabs on immigrants."
  • "Police and sheriff’s departments in New York, New Orleans, Chicago, and Los Angeles have also used it, frequently ensnaring in the digital dragnet people who aren’t suspected of committing any crime."

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Podcasts

Inside Joe Biden's economic plan

Joe Biden on Thursday returned to his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, to give his first major speech on economic policy since becoming the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee.

Axios Re:Cap digs into Biden's plans, how they developed and how they may change, with former U.S. Commerce secretary and campaign surrogate Penny Pritzker.

1 hour ago - World

Countries grapple with whether to lock back down as hotspots emerge

Tokyo in the time of coronavirus. Photo: Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty

Many politicians and public health officials sounded a similar lockdown refrain in the spring: let’s do this right so we only have to do it once.

Reality check: While some countries have thus far managed to keep cases under control after opening up, dozens of countries that had initially turned a corner are now seeing a worrying rebound. They have to decide if and how to return to lockdown — and whether their populations will stand for it.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4:30 p.m. ET: 12,128,406 — Total deaths: 551,552 — Total recoveries — 6,650,675Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4:30 p.m. ET: 3,088,913 — Total deaths: 132,934 — Total recoveries: 953,420 — Total tested: 36,979,745Map.
  3. Public health: More young people are spreading the virus Cases rise in 33 statesFlorida reports highest single-day death toll since pandemic began.
  4. Science: World Health Organization acknowledges airborne transmission of coronavirus.
  5. 1 🐂 thing: How the world could monitor for potential pandemic animal viruses.