Google has finalised its completion of USD2.1 billion acquisition of wearables pioneer Fitbit, following regulatory scrutiny, but the US Department of Justice is apparently still undergoing some Antitrust Division investigations.
Fitbit, founded in 2007, became synonymous with the wearable fitness tracker space and has sold about 120 million devices in 100 countries. However, the company struggled to maintain dominance with the arrival of the smartwatch, eventually ceding significant market share to the Apple Watch.
The key sticky point of the regulatory concern is Google’s use of the vast amount of user health data. Nevertheless, targeted advertising will continue to be at the heart of much of what the tech giant does. As the tech giant makes most of its money through selling ads based on information it collects about its billions of users’ interests and locations, privacy watchdogs fear it might exploit FitBit to peer even deeper into people’s lives.
Google, in particular, is quick to insist that the deal is all about hardware which has admittedly been a struggle in this particular vertical.
According to Rick Osterloh, Google’s senior vice president of devices and services, the deal has always been about devices, not data, and they will protect Fitbit users’ privacy. He also said they worked with global regulators on an approach which safeguards consumers’ privacy expectations, including a series of binding commitments that confirm Fitbit users’ health and wellness data won’t be used for Google ads and this data will be separated from other Google ads data.
In a statement, Fitbit co-founder and CEO James Park, also echoed similar sentiments, “The trust of our users will continue to be paramount, and we will maintain strong data privacy and security protections, giving you control of your data and staying transparent about what we collect and why.”
Google also affirmed it will continue to allow Fitbit users to choose to connect to third party services.
Google insists that it is more interested in adding Fitbit to grow its connected products, such as smartphones, laptops, cameras, and thermostats.
Since starting out in 1998, Google has become a dominant player in email, digital maps, web browsing, and mobile devices through its Android operating system. Currently, Google’s corporate parent, Mountain View, California-based Alphabet, boasts a market value of nearly USD1.2 trillion.