Google acquired Fitbit back in November last year in a deal valued at $2.1 billion. Following the acquisition, the deal fell under the regulatory scanner over antitrust concerns and data privacy, after which the European Commission launched an investigation to assess the risks of data misuse for targeted ads and how it will affect the competition. Today, the European Commission has given its formal approval to the deal, while putting certain restrictions on Google over how user data should be handled.
Google will not use health data for targeted ads
“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. 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,” EVP of European Commission Margrethe Vestager was quoted as saying in the official announcement.
Regarding the investigation, the agency primarily covered the possibilities of Google using the user data collected by the wearable devices for targeted advertisement, abusive usage of Fitbit Web API to stifle the competition, and cutting down on interoperability with Android phones for rivals in the segment. To address those concerns, the European Commission asked Google to honor a few commitments to ensure that the acquisition ensures a level playing field for other players in the fitness wearable segment. Listed below are some of those commitments:
- Google will not use the health and wellness data collected by the Fitbit wearables for its Google Ads service that covers search advertising, display advertising, and advertising intermediation products.
- Fitbit’s user data will be stored separately from Google’s own data trove collected from other sources.
- Users in the European Economic Area can allow or deny access to their health data associated with Google / Fitbit account by other Google services such as Search and Maps.
- Google will maintain access to users’ health and fitness data to software applications through the Fitbit Web API, without charging for access and subject to user consent.
You can read more about the commitments made by Google regarding the distribution and access to relevant APIs here.