US and EU advocacy groups warn against Google’s purchase of Fitbit

Fitbit

Twenty advocacy groups from across the globe have signed a statement urging regulators to be wary of Google’s $2.1 billion bid for fitness tracker company Fitbit Inc because of privacy and competition concerns.

KEY POINTS:

  • Advocacy groups from the US, Europe, Latin America and elsewhere have signed a statement urging regulators to be wary of Google’s $2.1 billion bid for fitness tracker company Fitbit Inc
  • The groups worry that it gives too much market power and personal information to the tech titan
  • Amongst the new data Google would yield, includes intimate information about users as how many steps they take daily, the quality of their sleep and their heart rates

The 20 organisations, which include the US-based Public Citizen, Access Now from Europe and the Brazilian Institute of Consumer Defence, argued that the deal would expand the already considerable clout in digital markets of Alphabet Inc’s Google.

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Acquiring Fitbit would give Google such intimate information about users as how many steps they take daily, the quality of their sleep and their heart rates.

“Past experience shows that regulators must be very wary of any promises made by merging parties about restricting the use of the acquisition target’s data. Regulators must assume that Google will in practice utilise the entirety of Fitbit’s currently independent unique, highly sensitive data set in combination with its own,” the groups said.

Australian and Canadian groups were among the signatories.

A Google spokeswoman said the tech wearables space was crowded.

“This deal is about devices, not data,” she said.

“We believe the combination of Google’s and Fitbit’s hardware efforts will increase competition in the sector.”

Google announced the deal in November to take on competitors in the crowded market for fitness trackers and smart watches. Fitbit’s market share has been threatened by deep-pocketed companies like Apple and Samsung Electronics.

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Australia’s competition authority said this month that it may have concerns about the deal and would make a final decision in August.

Antitrust regulators from the European Union will decide by the 20th of July whether to clear the deal with or without concessions. The alternative is to open a longer-term investigation into the proposed acquisition.

In Washington DC, Google is under antitrust investigation by (1) the Justice Departmen; (2) a congressional committee; and (3) dozens of states for allegedly using its massive market power to harm smaller competitors.

Initial reporting via our content partners at Reuters. Reporting by Diane Bartz. Editing by Lisa Shumaker.

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