Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Antitrust investigations into Google that the U.S. Department of Justice and a coalition of 50 states and territories opened last year are likely to produce lawsuits "as soon as this summer," the Wall Street Journal reports.

The big picture: Google, along with Facebook, Apple, and Amazon, has faced scrutiny from regulators over a variety of concerns, including allegations of privacy violations, anti-competitive practices, political bias, and failure to limit the spread of misinformation.

How it works: The DOJ and states would aim to prove that Google's dominant position in the online advertising marketplace constitutes a monopoly that the company has used to squelch competitors. They could also take aim at its dominance of search. Google would aim to show that its mostly free products and services benefit consumers.

Between the lines: Most antitrust litigation against tech giants has proven drawn-out and inconclusive in the past, but companies pressed to defend themselves in those cases, like Microsoft and IBM, have lost their industry leadership in the process.

Go deeper: Tech's antitrust probes push on in face of pandemic

Go deeper

Aug 6, 2020 - Health

HRW chief praises Apple, Google's contact tracing as privacy "gold standard"

Axios' Kim Hart and Kenneth Roth. Photo: Axios

The Bluetooth-based contact tracing system designed by Apple and Google is a current "gold standard" for prioritizing privacy when tracking the spread of the virus, Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth told Axios' Kim Hart at a virtual event Thursday.

Why it matters: Without a vaccine, promptly notifying those who have possibly been exposed to the coronavirus and encouraging self-quarantine is one of the best mitigation tools available.

Updated Aug 6, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: Ethical tech in crisis

On Thursday August 6, Axios Cities author Kim Hart hosted a conversation on how technology companies are responding to the pandemic, featuring former U.S. Chief Data Scientist DJ Patil and Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth.

DJ Patil unpacked how tech companies are building ethical and responsible tech centered on privacy and transparency during a time of crisis.

  • On the issue of misinformation during a pandemic: "It's no small statement to say [misinformation] is life or death. And so platforms have responsibility right now to figure out what is the right level of action at a bare minimum. It's creating stricter standards for how and what is allowed on their platforms."
  • On his concerns with the lasting consequences of quickly developing COVID-19 response technology: "It's easy to say this technology can be beneficial. But I have very serious reservations about it being deployed. What happens once it's deployed? Do we keep that in place after a pandemic? Those are the questions that we should be prepared to answer right now."

Kenneth Roth discussed different contact tracing models, highlighting the Bluetooth-based contact tracing system designed by Apple and Google.

  • On apps that use Bluetooth technology rather than location data for contract tracing: "Not relying on location data is a huge step forward in terms of privacy...[The app] did not identify infector, [it] simply told somebody that you were near somebody who was infected. They didn't put the data in a central database that the government might use for other reasons."
  • On the responsibility of Big Tech when it comes to moderating what contract tracing apps are allowing in their stores: "When you have problematic uses of technology of this sort, Google and Apple shouldn't participate. They should say we're not going to let you put apps like this on our stores if you're going to be using it this highly abusive way."

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with
Chief Ethical and Humane Use Officer at Salesforce Paula Goldman who discussed Salesforce's work on ethical tech development.

  • On having clear priorities in developing ethical technology: "Even though there's no definition of responsible tech for a pandemic, we need to think about things like privacy. We need to think about how vulnerable groups [are] being affected."

Thank you Salesforce for sponsoring this event.

The silver linings of online school

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Online learning can be frustrating for students, teachers and parents, but some methods are working.

The big picture: Just as companies are using this era of telework to try new things, some principals, teachers and education startups are treating remote learning as a period of experimentation, too.