Google announced last year that it would pay $2.1 billion for Fitbit, a wearable device provider, and said it hopes to complete all the deals by 2020.But antitrust regulators and consumer rights groups around the world are stepping up scrutiny of Google's acquisition of Fitbit, a fitness tracker company, amid concerns that Google will get more sensitive data from Fitbit's wearable devices, such as user heart rates, fitness activities and sleep habits.
It is reported that EU regulators have sent a 60 page questionnaire to Google and Fitbit's competitors, asking them to evaluate the impact of the acquisition on the digital medical field; whether it will adversely affect the fitness tracking app in Google's App Store; and how Google will use the user data in its search and advertising businesses.
EU regulators have set July 20 as the deadline for deciding whether the deal will continue. At that time, the EU can choose to approve the deal, or ask Google to make concessions on how to use Fitbit device data, or launch a four month investigation to comprehensively explore the concerns raised. There are reports that the questionnaire recently sent to competitors of the two companies is very detailed, indicating that a broader survey may be in progress.
Nor is the EU the only one concerned about the acquisition. Last month, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission publicly announced its concerns about the deal. "The acquisition Fitbit will help Google build a more comprehensive set of user data, further consolidate its market position and raise barriers to entry for potential competitors ," said Rod Sims (Rod Sims), chairman of the committee.
As worried about the deal by regulators are consumer rights groups. This week, 20 consumer groups from the United States, the European Union, Mexico, Canada and Brazil wrote to regulators, calling the deal a "test case" to verify whether technology companies can effectively monopolize data.
"Google may take advantage of Fitbit's valuable health and location data sets and its powerful data collection capabilities to further strengthen its already dominant position in markets such as digital advertising," the groups said "Google can also use Fitbit's data to build a dominant position in the digital healthcare market, thereby depriving competitors of the ability to compete effectively with it."
Google has also made some concessions to ease industry and public concerns. Last year, Google made it clear that "Fitbit's health and health data will not be used in Google's advertising business." In response to letters from consumer groups, the company said the deal was "about equipment, not data." Google also added that the wearable market is "quite crowded" and the acquisition of Fitbit will only increase competition.
Some media said that this statement may avoid the antitrust regulators arbitrarily stop the deal. Because Fitbit and Google are not direct competitors, and their share of the wearable market is not enough for antitrust regulators to believe that the deal forms a de facto monopoly.
However, given Google's strong position in digital advertising, concerns about data access may be more persuasive. Google controls 90% of the market in such aspects as the media used to sell display advertising tools, which is a sensitive point for Google. The U.S. Department of justice's antitrust investigation on Google's suspected abuse of its dominant position in the advertising market will come to a final conclusion.