News about business acquisitions often makes it sound like things are over once the ink has dried. Reality is, however, far more complicated, especially when a company from one continent is acquiring a company from another continent with different laws and concerns. That is the situation that Google has found itself in when it announced it would acquiring Fitbit last year, a deal that has yet to be closed, presuming the EU gives its approval before 2020 is over.
The fact that the two companies made the long-rumored announcement back in November last year shows how big the issue is, at least for European regulators. More than just a tech giant buying a wearable device maker, the questions and concerns revolve around what Google plans to do with Fitbit’s data and the wearable market at large.
The first matter is pretty straightforward considering Google’s name has been dragged into every privacy-related issue, especially regarding advertising. Google made a promise that it won’t be using data from Fitbit’s users for Google’s ads, a concession that was rejected by the European Commission on the grounds of not being enough.
There are also worries that Google owning Fitbit would lead to an unfair advantage, given Google also makes Wear OS that is used by Fitbit’s competitors in the smartwatch market. Google has now also pledged to keep supporting those rivals, which are also its Wear OS partners, and keep Fitbit’s devices open to rival services.
The Commission is set to make a decision on December 23 whether or not to give a thumbs up to the deal. For Fitbit, which now only has 3% of the wearable market, time is running short to revive its business and its brand. For Google, it’s probably just another normal day with another controversial acquisition.