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Google Now Owns Fitbit: What It Means For Your Fitness Data Privacy

Both Fitbit and Google published posts on the deal, which is worth a reported $2.1 billion.

Article originally published by Forbes. Hargreaves Lansdown is not responsible for its content or accuracy and may not share the author's views. News and research are not personal recommendations to deal. All investments can fall in value so you could get back less than you invest.

The Sense is Fitbit's most advanced fitness tracker. Fitbit

Google’s acquisition of fitness tracker giant Fitbit has been completed.

Both Fitbit and Google published posts on the deal, which is worth a reported $2.1 billion.

These articles, after the expected platitudes, largely focus on one element: privacy. This is perhaps the biggest worry for Fitbit users, given Google is a company fuelled by data.

Fitbit CEO James Park’s words are the most reassuring.

“Google will continue to protect Fitbit users’ privacy and has made a series of binding commitments with global regulators, confirming that Fitbit users’ health and wellness data won’t be used for Google ads and this data will be kept separate from other Google ad data,” he writes.

These commitments are, in part, the result of an investigation by the European Commission, one reason this acquisition has taken so long. It was originally announced in 2019, when the world looked rather different in several ways.

The European Commission detailed the concessions required for the deal to go ahead in a statement published on 17 December.

In summary, Google cannot use Fitbit health data to inform your ad profile, which is built up using the data Google harvests about you from other devices and web searches. Fitbit data has to be kept in a separate “data silo”.

Google is also forbidden from blocking access to the APIs other manufacturers of wearables need to make their trackers and smartwatches connect to Google phones. This measure is about market competition, rather than privacy.

These commitments have a shelf life of 10 years, but the European Commission could choose to extend them by up to a further 10 years. Compliance will be monitored by a trustee.

This relates to compliance in the EEA countries, but “these commitments will be implemented globally so that all consumers can benefit from them” according to Rick Osterloh, Google Senior Vice President of Devices & Services.

The acquisition has been subject to a US Department of Justice investigation and the complaints of multiple NGOs concerned about Google’s clear incentives to use Fitbit data to further encroach on user privacy.

However, Fitbit’s market share may be less than you’d imagine, according to Counterpoint Research. Fitbit accounted for just 2.4% of the global smartwatch market, by the revenue value of devices shipped, in the first half of 2020. That compares to 51.4% for Apple, 9.4% for Garmin, 8.3% for Huawei and 7.2% for Samsung.

The merger can only be good news in terms of the quality of wearables associated with the Google name, though. Its Wear OS platform has seemed stagnant for years, while watches like the Fitbit Sense offer genuinely new, if not necessarily desperately useful, features like stress monitoring, which uses a sensor that can tell how much you’re sweating.


This article was written by Andrew Williams from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@industrydive.com.

Article originally published by Forbes. Hargreaves Lansdown is not responsible for its content or accuracy and may not share the author's views. News and research are not personal recommendations to deal. All investments can fall in value so you could get back less than you invest.

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