It has been more than half a year since Google announced its plans to acquire popular wearable brand Fitbit but that deal may be in danger of falling through. That is if privacy advocates have their way and convince the European Commission of the risks that this deal would entail. Although it may not have been legally or technically required to do, Google is pledging to exclude Fitbit data from any advertising purpose in order to get on the Commission’s good graces.
Given its core business, everything that Google touches will always be seen as being used for targeted advertising. That’s especially true for products that are actually designed to gather data from users, like fitness trackers and smartwatches the likes of which Fitbit will be selling under Google’s auspices. Unsurprisingly, twenty privacy advocacy groups from both the US and Europe signed a statement raising concerns about the repercussions of the acquisition.
The deal is still undergoing the usual process of making sure it won’t create a monopoly and the European Commission is expected to request input from Google’s and Fitbit’s rivals and users. Reuters notes that privacy, while an important factor in the grand scheme of things, is technically not a consideration when talking about competition.
Given its reputation in the region, however, Google doesn’t seem to be taking any chances. It is pledging not to use whatever data Fitbit will gather for advertising purposes, claiming the deal is about devices and not data, something uncharacteristic of a data-centric company. It is clear that Google is hoping to soften its image enough to secure the acquisition.
What is probably less clear is how Google plans to turn it into a profitable venture, especially now with advertising out of the picture. Once the king of wearables, Fitbit’s market share is reportedly down to the last few single digits globally and Google itself isn’t exactly doing a grand job of securing Wear OS’s future. We’ll have to see what will come out of this union, presuming it gets the regulatory approval it needs first.