Amid ongoing federal and state probes of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, the tech giant announced this week it acquired Fitbit and purchased the popular fitness tracker company for $2.1 billion.
The Fitbit purchase is “an opportunity to invest even more in Wear OS as well as introduce Made by Google wearable devices into the market,” Google SVP of devices and services Rick Osterloh said in a blog announcing the acquisition.
The deal, which is expected to close sometime in 2020, raises concerns over whether Google will nefariously misuse the health and fitness data of its 25 million active users.
Fitbit tracks and monitors its users heart rate, steps, exercise, food intake, weight, sleep and a slew of other personal metrics and details about a person’s private life.
“Could your Fitbit data be used to say, influence your Google search results?” Vox notes. “Or to suggest restaurants in your neighborhood? To build new health products? To make calendar invite suggestions?”
The personal metrics tracked by Fitbit combined with other information Google tracks, like “what you search for online, what emails you send, where you go — that could present a pretty comprehensive profile of a person’s existence,” the publication warns.
Google issued a separate press release following its acquisition, assuring, “Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads,” Google wrote. “When you use our products, you’re trusting Google with your information. We understand this is a big responsibility and we work hard to protect your information, put you in control and give you transparency about your data. Similar to our other products, with wearables, we will be transparent about the data we collect and why,” Google wrote.
While Google assured it would not use data for ads, the company did not elaborate on whether it might use the data elsewhere.
While the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission are broadly investigating antitrust violations posed by Silicon Valley, fifty attorneys general are currently investigating Google over possible anti-competitive practices.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle warn Alphabet’s acquisition of Fitbit should be thoroughly reviewed by investigators.
“Why should Google be permitted to acquire even more companies while they’re under DOJ antitrust investigation?” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) said on Twitter referring to the Justice Department.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-I), who is leading the House antitrust investigation into the big tech companies, also railed against the deal.
“Google is signaling that it will continue to flex and expand its power in spite of this immense scrutiny,” he argued. “Google’s proposed acquisition of Fitbit would also give the company deep insights into Americans’ most sensitive information — such as their health and location data — threatening to further entrench its market power online.”
The acquisition will result in Google being far more powerful than its tech counterparts in the United States “because Fitbit has a larger share of the domestic market for smartwatches and fitness trackers. In the second quarter, Fitbit got almost six times more market share in North America than in the Asia Pacific region,” Bloomberg reports, citing Strategy Analytics.
Alphabet’s purchase of Fitbit comes after Google exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users of the Google+ this past Spring. After the major data breach, Google announced a sweeping set of data privacy measures, but opted not to disclose the issue to avoid damage to its reputation and regulatory scrutiny, according to the company’s internal documents that were obtained by The Wall Street Journal.
In June, investigative watchdog Project Veritas published documents and undercover footage obtained by a Google insider that confirmed the tech monopoly’s scorched-earth policy against free speech. The footage featured executives of the company admitting they are devoted to preventing anything like the 2016 election of Donald Trump from happening again.
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