Following regulatory scrutiny on both sides of the pond, Google announced this morning that it had completed its acquisition of wearable pioneer, Fitbit. Google’s use of large amounts of user health data has long been a major point of regulatory concern of the deal. Ultimately, targeted advertising continues at the heart of much of what tech giants do.
Thus, it is surprising that both Google and Fitbit seek to address concerns in their respective statements on the acquisition. Google, in particular, is willing to emphasize that the deal is about hardware – which is a conflict in this particular vertical. Google’s effort to compete with Apple in the fitness and wearable categories is, at best, uneven.
Google SVP of Devices and Services Rick Osterloh notes,
The deal is always about devices, not about data, and we are clear from the beginning that we will protect the privacy of Fitbit users. We have worked with global regulators to protect consumers’ privacy expectations, including a series of binding commitments that confirm the health and wellness data of Fitbit users, which will not be used for Google ads And this data will be separated from the data of other Google ads.
We will maintain access to the Android API that enables devices such as fitness trackers and smart watches to interfere with Android smartphones, and we will continue to allow Fitbit users to choose to connect to third-party services so that you can now Will also be able to. Sync your favorite health and fitness apps to your Fitbit account. These commitments will be implemented globally so that all consumers can benefit from them. We will also continue to work with regulators around the world to assure them that we are living up to these commitments.
Fitbit co-founder and CEO James Park wrote on emotion, writing,
The trust of our users will remain paramount, and we will maintain strong data privacy and security protection, allowing you to control your data and be transparent about what we collect and why. Google Fitbit will continue to protect users’ privacy and has made a series of binding commitments with global regulators, confirming that the health and wellness data of Fitbit users will not be used for Google advertisements and that this data will not be used by other Google will be kept separate from advertising data. Google also confirmed that it will continue to allow Fitbit users to choose to join third-party services.