Google's Fitbit buy sees serious advocacy resistance

Advocacy groups in the United States and the European Union issued a statement on Wednesday rallying against Google's acquisition of Fitbit. The statement was signed by twenty advocacy groups from countries around the world, primarily in the USA and Europe. Google currently has a bid in place to acquire the fitness wearable company Fitbit – but the deal's not quite done just yet.

The statement was entitled "Consumer and Citizen Groups Have Serious Concerns About Google Fitbit Takeover." This statement was signed by a variety of groups, all of which are included in the list below.

Statement Signatory Organizations:

• Access Now – EU

• Australian Privacy Foundation – Australia

• BEUC – The European Consumer Organization – EU

• Center for Digital Democracy – US

• Centre for Responsible Technology – Australia

• Color of Change – US

• Consumer Federation of America – US

• Derechos Digitales – Latin America

• EDRi (European Digital Rights) – EU

• Idec – Brazilian Institute of Consumer Defense – Brazil

• New America's Open Technology Institute – US

• Omidyar Network – US

• Open Markets Institute – US

• Open Society European Policy Institute – EU

• Privacy International (PI) – Global

• Public Citizen – US

• Public Interest Advocacy Centre – Canada

• Public Knowledge – US

• Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales

(R3D) – Mexico

• Trans-Atlantic Consumer Dialogue – EU-US

"Wearables like Fitbit's could in future give companies details of essentially everything consumers do 24/7 and allow them to feed digital services back to consumers," said the group's common statement on the matter. "The way wearables are being used to track COVID-19 infections and give access to doctors and health information is a timely illustration of this."

The statement suggested that Google's expansion into the wearables market and potential for "edging out other competitors" would be significant – and this Fitbit acquisition could be a sign of that "edging." Wearable devices, they wrote, could "replace smartphones as the main gateway to the internet," like smartphones and tablets seem to have replaced personal computers in that role.

Google's assertion was (and still seems to be, now), that they're aiming to acquire Fitbit because they want Fitbit's hardware knowhow and resources. This was the message from the start – from the November 2019 announcement of the buy (along with the user data promise.) Take a peek at our feature Google bought Fitbit: What this means for smartwatches market.

The combined statement of the organizations listed above said that "the results of unfortunate merger control decisions in the past have likely contributed to the rise of tech giants." Because of this, they said, new concerns now need "more costly and lengthy ex-post antitrust enforcement proceedings" as well as "other competition interventions."

This is bad for everyone, they said, and "such harms to consumers are far better prevented than cured."