Palantir is going public after 17 years — here's what it does and why it's been controversial

After 17 years on the private market, data analytics company Palantir is making its public market debut. This long-awaited news, along with its recent announcement that it will be moving its headquarters from Palo Alto to Denver, has put the software company in the spotlight. 

Co-founded by Peter Thiel back in 2003, Palantir's tech helps detect patterns in large datasets. The company is best known for its work with U.S. government agencies like the CIA (which was an early investor through its non-profit venture arm, In-Q-Tel), the Department of Defense, and — most controversially — Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

While these contracts have come under increased scrutiny during the Trump administration, in recent years Palantir has increasingly courted commercial customers too, which now make up almost half of the company's revenue.

Longtime investors hope these commercial contracts, alongside the company's steady government work, will eventually lead to profitability. However, much of the public is just now learning what it is exactly that Palantir does, and why its work with law enforcement agencies has raised eyebrows.

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