Google has pledged to keep Fitbit data seperate from its advertising business in an attempt to ward off an EU antitrust investigation.
As reported by Reuters, the European Commission is currently assessing Google’s $2.1bn acquisition of wearable device company Fitbit, first announced in November, and is due to make a decision on whether the acquisition can go through, whether it will require certain things from Google in order for the deal to be approved, or whether regulators will launch a four-month antitrust investigation. A decision is due on 20 July.
The antitrust investigation would assess whether the acquisition would give the company an unfair monopoly in the market. Although antitrust regulations do not cover privacy, privacy advocates have also voiced concerns over how the tech giant could use the data of Fitbit’s 28 million active users.
Google Fitbit acquisition “about devices, not data”
In a statement emailed to Verdict, Google said:
“This deal is about devices, not data. The wearables space is crowded, and we believe the combination of Google and Fitbit’s hardware efforts will increase competition in the sector, benefiting consumers and making the next generation of devices better and more affordable. We appreciate the opportunity to work with the European Commission on an approach that safeguards consumers’ expectations that Fitbit device data won’t be used for advertising.”
In a statement regarding the acquisition released in November, Fitbit said that “The company never sells personal information, and Fitbit health wellness data will not be used for Google ads.”
According to the Financial Times, the European Commission has sent questionnaires to Google and Fitbit’s rivals, asking them how the acquisition could affect their respective markets, which some have interpreted as the commission preparing for an investigation.
Last year Google was hit by a €1.49bn fine from the European Commission “for abusive practices in online advertising” in its AdSense business. It also received a fine of €2.4bn related to Google Shopping, and a fine of €4.3bn, the largest fine issued by the EU for anti-competitive behaviour, related to the Android operating system.
Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission has also voiced concerns about the Fitbit acquisition, saying that “Google’s access to consumer health data may raise entry barriers, further entrench its dominant position and adversely affect competition in several digital advertising and health markets”.