Last month, Google announced its intention to acquire Fitbit and become a major player in the health space. The $2.1 billion deal is expected to close next year, but reports today reveals that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) is reviewing the transaction.
According to the New York Post and later confirmed by Reuters, the DOJ is reviewing the acquisition that would see Fitbit become a part of Google. It comes as the department is broadly reviewing big tech for anti-competitive behavior. In this case, the market would be losing an independent health and fitness player if the deal goes through. There would also be one less wearable operating system.
Concerns immediately arose about Google getting access to Fitbit’s current 28 million users, and other valuable information. That “even bigger window into people’s private data, including sensitive health information” is the crux of the unannounced review. Reuters also cites “possible antitrust issues.”
To counter, Google’s original blog post promised that personal information would never be sold, and that “Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads.” Existing customers under Google will be given the option to “review, move, or delete their data.”
Behind the scenes, the Justice Department reportedly “tussled” with the Federal Trade Commission over who had authority. Only one regulator has to review, and the FTC historically had oversight. However, the DOJ argued the relevance of its ongoing investigation into Google as for why it should lead. A source speaking to the Post noted how the “DOJ’s handling of Fitbit will give an early read on the Google investigation.”
Regulatory scrutiny was always expected in this current climate, but the prevailing speculation was that Google would be allowed to continue, as it’s currently not a player in the health space.
More about Fitbit:
- Report: Google silent so far on Fitbit plans, balked at Assistant on Versa 2
- Fitbit OS update improves heart rate tracking, on-device watch face adjustments
- Facebook was also interested in acquiring Fitbit, offering less than Google
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