In a bid to ward off the European Union (EU) antitrust concerns, Google has offered not to use Fitbit data for ad targeting. The Mountain View company is facing a possible antitrust investigation from the European regulatory body on its proposed $2.1 billion takeover of Fitbit. The regulators are concerned that Google could use sensitive health data from Fitbit devices to target ads.
Google, however, has maintained since the very beginning that it will not use Fitbit's health data for ads. "This deal is about devices, not data. We appreciate the opportunity to work with the European Commission on an approach that safeguards consumers’ expectations that Fitbit device data won’t be used for advertising," Google said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
Google also last year promised to offer existing Fitbit users the choice to "review, move, or delete their data."
The EU had sought feedback from potential rivals to the two companies about how this deal would affect competition. The regulators also asked app developers and healthcare providers for their opinion.
They are likely to hear the feedback before deciding on their stance. They'll decide on whether to approve the deal, demand more concessions, or open an extended, four-month-long investigation on the 20th of this month.
Google will not use Fitbit health data for ads
Google announced the acquisition of Fitbit in November last year. However, the deal is yet to go through all the required regulatory approvals around the world.
We reported earlier this month that the EU may launch a formal investigation on the deal.
While privacy issues do not fall under competition rules, Google using Fitbit health data could strengthen the former's dominance in the advertising business, where it faces little competition.
Google, meanwhile, says the deal is about devices only. The company is aiming to take on Apple, Samsung, and the like in the fitness-tracking and smartwatch market. It currently does not have a significant presence in this space.
However, there are again concerns that the company may stop providing its smartwatch operating system (Wear OS) to rival companies if it starts making its own devices.
That's unlikely to happen but the EU has some concerns. Market leader Apple and Samsung have in-house OSes for their watches. But the likes of Xiaomi, Huawei, and others mainly use Wear OS.
Along with the EU, Australia's ACCC as well as several advocacy groups from around the world have also warned against the deal. The deal is facing a probe by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) as well.