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Google’s Fitbit acquisition wins EU approval

Google’s Fitbit acquisition wins EU approval


Google has agreed not to use Fitbit health data to target ads to EU users

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Fitbit Sense on a gold tray
The Fitbit Sense from Fitbit’s lineup of health tracking wearables.
Photo by Brent Rose for The Verge

Google’s acquisition of Fitbit is nearing completion now that the European Commission has approved the search giant’s $2.1 billion takeover of the wearable tech company.

When Google announced the acquisition in November 2019, Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh said that the Fitbit purchase was “an opportunity to invest even more in Wear OS as well as introduce Made by Google wearable devices into the market.” But regulators quickly got involved, and in August, they formally began investigating Google’s purchase of Fitbit over data privacy and antitrust concerns.

In approving the deal, Google has now agreed to a number of concessions to ease EU concerns. Among the concessions, Google has agreed not to use Fitbit data, including GPS and health data, gathered from any user in the European Economic Area (EEA) for targeted advertising.

The Fitbit deal clears one of its last major hurdles

Additionally, the company is ordered to maintain a technical separation between its business and that of Fitbit’s and to give EEA users the option to approve or deny the use of Fitness health data to inform other Google services like its search engine and Google Maps product. The approval of the deal also stipulates that Google maintain commitments related to Fitbit’s Web API and its own Android API that foster competition. These commitments will be in place for 10 years.

“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,” said Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission executive vice president, in a statement. “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.”

Australian regulators have also been looking into the acquisition. Late last month, Australia’s Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) published three Google concessions meant to allay competition and privacy concerns related to data collected by Fitbit and Google wearables for the purposes of advertising as well as long-term interoperability with Android phones and third-party apps and wearables. The ACCC is currently seeking feedback on the proposals.

In November, Ruth Porat, the chief financial officer of Google parent company Alphabet, said she expects the bid for Fitbit to be completed by the end of 2020.