Google Fitbit takeover gets EU approval – but there’s a catch

Eric Abent - Dec 17, 2020, 1:35pm CST
Google Fitbit takeover gets EU approval – but there’s a catch

Way back in November of 2019, Google announced its intention to purchase Fitbit for a whopping $2.1 billion. For a company as big as Google, any kind of acquisition is going to come under some pretty intense regulatory scrutiny, especially when the subject of its acquisition is a name as big as Fitbit. Fast forward 13 months later, and it looks like Google is about to get the regulatory approval it was looking for in the EU.

Today, the European Commission announced that it will be clearing Google’s acquisition of Fitbit, but this approval is not condition-free. In fact, there are several rules that Google needs to stick to following its acquisition of Fitbit, lest it draw the ire of European regulators all over again.

For starters, Google can’t use the health and wellness data it collects from Fitbit users in the EEA for targeted advertising of any kind, which is something that Google has been promising since the day it announced this acquisition. Google also has to keep that data separate from the rest of the user data it’s collected, and it has to allow EEA users “an effective choice” between granting or denying the use of their health and wellness data in other Google services.

The European Commission will also require that Google continue allowing access to Fitbit’s Web API and Android APIs, as there was concern that Google could use its influence over Android to degrade the functionality of other wearable devices. The European Commission is imposing these commitments on Google for 10 years, and it can choose to extend the advertising commitments Google made by a further ten years as long as it can justify that extension.

So, in the end, these aren’t commitments that are all too surprising considering that Google has been making of these promises since day one. Still, it’s good to have the European Commission actually hold Google to its word in this case, because the purchase of Fitbit is a big one that could have a distinct impact on the wearables market. We’ll see what happens from here, but for now, it looks like Google’s acquisition of Fitbit has been given the all-clear from European regulators.


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