Six months later, the European Union (EU) has finally approved Google’s $2.1 billion acquisition of struggling wearable maker Fitbit.
“We can approve the proposed acquisition of Fitbit by Google because the commitments will ensure that the market for wearables and the nascent digital health space will remain open and competitive,” European Commission (EC) competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said. “The commitments will determine how Google can use the data collected for ad purposes, how interoperability between competing wearables and Android will be safeguarded and how users can continue to share health and fitness data, if they choose to.”
The EU approval follows what the EC says was an in-depth investigation of the transaction that focused on how Google would use the data collected by Fitbit’s wearable devices. The Commission was concerned that Google would use collected user data to target advertising, restrict access to that data by competitors, and build specific advantages into Android that would make Fitbit devices work better with Google’s mobile platform.
To address those concerns, Google agreed to various commitments over a span of 10 years. For example, it will not use the health and wellness data collected from wearable devices to target advertising in the European Economic Area (EEA) and will silo Fitbit data from any other data that Google uses for advertising. And it will let users access and export their health and fitness data through a free Fitbit Web API that is subject to user consent. And it will not disadvantage competing devices on Android.
“We believe this deal will spur innovation in wearable devices and enable us to build products that help people lead healthier lives,” a Google statement notes. “Regulators wanted to look closely at this transaction, and we have worked constructively with them to resolve their concerns, including the set of legally binding commitments.”