Google Reiterates Fitbit Data Pledge as EU Launches Major Investigation

Fitbit Announces Charge 2 and Flex 2 Fitness Wearables

Google said today that it would work with EU antitrust regulators to overcome any obstacles to its $2.1 billion purchase of Fitbit. The European Commission, not coincidentally, has launched a major investigation of the acquistion.

“As we continue to work with regulators to answer their questions, we wanted to share more about how we believe this deal will increase choice, and create engaging products and helpful experiences for consumers,” Google senior vice president Rick Osterloh writes in a new post to Google’s The Keyword blog. “This deal is about devices, not data. We’ve been clear from the beginning that we will not use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads.”

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The EC, meanwhile, says it has opened “an in-depth investigation” of the proposed acquisition of Fitbit by Google.

“The use of wearable devices by European consumers is expected to grow significantly in the coming years,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said. “This will go hand in hand with an exponential growth of data generated through these devices. This data provides key insights about the life and the health situation of the users of these devices. Our investigation aims to ensure that control by Google over data collected through wearable devices as a result of the transaction does not distort competition.”

To counteract this action, Google says it has made a legally binding commitment to the European Commission (EC) regarding its use of Fitbit data.

“As we do with all our products, we will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move or delete their data,” Osterloh says. “And we’ll continue to support wide connectivity and interoperability across our and other companies’ products.”

Osterloh also points out that Google doesn’t currently offer any wearable products of its own and that this market is dominated by other players, notably Apple, Samsung, Garmin, Fossil, Huawei, and Xiaomi.

“We appreciate the opportunity to work with the European Commission on an approach that addresses consumers’ expectations of their wearable devices,” Osterloh concluded. “We’re confident that by working closely with Fitbit’s team of experts, and bringing together our experience in AI, software and hardware, we can build compelling devices for people around the world.”

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Conversation 2 comments

  • Chris_Kez

    Premium Member
    04 August, 2020 - 5:33 pm

    <p>I'd like to hear Google explain to EU regulators exactly what the company <em>does plan</em> to do with all of that data, and how they're going to make money off the deal. They're certainly not buying Fitbit because they think hardware sales will massively grow beyond the current $1.5B rate (which nets ~$500MM in profit, down ~25% YoY).</p>

    • wright_is

      Premium Member
      05 August, 2020 - 2:24 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#559063">In reply to Chris_Kez:</a></em></blockquote><p>I expect that it will be like WhatsApp, that the data will have to be guaranteed not to flow into the company's other products and general databases… Which Facebook then promptly ignored after a year or so, to the sound of sabre rattling from the EU.</p><p>Although it is quasi-illegal to use WhatsApp in the EU, because it uploads all your contacts to Facebook's servers, without getting the permission of the named entities in your contact lists. Many companies have banned WhatsApp from devices that have corporate data on them.</p><p>If Google follow the same strategy, it could cause problems in the future for their EU sales. They are already eyed suspiciously by many.</p>

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