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EU officially investigates Google acquisition of Fitbit

Officials want to know if Google might abuse fitness data.

Published onAugust 4, 2020

Fitbit Versa 2 on wrist
  • The European Commission has launched an investigation of Google’s Fitbit acquisition.
  • Officials are concerned Google may use fitness data to get unfair advantages in search ads.
  • They’re also worried Google could limit access to rival wearables on Android.

Google’s acquisition of Fitbit is about to face previously rumored European Union scrutiny.

The European Commission has launched an investigation into the purchase (via Reuters) over concerns Google might misuse Fitbit’s health data to further personalize search ads and give the internet giant an unfair advantage over rivals. Marketers and publishers could “face higher prices and have less choice,” the Commission said.

Officials were also concerned that melting the Google and Fitbit databases might skew a “nascent” digital healthcare section in Europe, and that Google might have an incentive to limit support for rival Android-compatible wearables like Samsung’s Galaxy Watch line.

Google had promised in mid-July that it would create a “data silo” that fenced off wearable data from other information. However, the Commission determined that the silo would be “insufficient” to offset concerns — the container wouldn’t cover all the data Google would receive through the deal.

See also: The best smartwatches you can buy

In response, Google senior devices VP Rick Osterloh published a blog post stressing his company’s view that the Fitbit deal was “about devices, not data.” The executive promised that Google would give Fitbit users control over their info. He further argued that there was “vibrant competition” in wearables between brands like Apple, Samsung, and Wear OS partner Fossil, and that the Fitbit deal would foster competition that improved quality while lowering prices.

The Commission has until December 9 to decide whether or not the Fitbit deal is anti-competitive. That’s a significant amount of time to wait, but might be the last major roadblock for the deal if EU regulators don’t find serious issues. The US Justice Department hasn’t formally launched an investigation despite earlier murmurs, and Australia has been relatively quiet as well. If there are objections, however, Google might have to make additional concessions or even risk dropping the acquisition entirely.

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