Google’s Fitbit buyout closes as execs try to tamp down privacy fears

Eric Abent - Jan 14, 2021, 10:31am CST
Google’s Fitbit buyout closes as execs try to tamp down privacy fears

Way back in November 2019, Google announced its intention to acquire Fitbit for a whopping $2.1 billion. The acquisition has clear benefits for Google, as bringing Fitbit under the Google umbrella could help the company build out Wear OS in a big way, but the proposed acquisition was met with a significant amount of resistance from regulators and advocacy groups alike. Fast forward to today and Google’s acquisition of Fitbit is complete, but not without some hefty promises made on the part of Google.

In fact, separate statements published today by Google SVP of devices and services Rick Osterloh and Fitbit CEO, president, and co-founder James Park both reference those promises that Google made in order to get the go-ahead from regulators around the world. “The trust of our users will continue to be paramount, and we will maintain strong data privacy and security protections, giving you control of your data and staying transparent about what we collect and why,” Park wrote in his statement, going onto reiterate that Google won’t be able to use Fitbit user data for advertising purposes and that it’s required to keep Fitbit data separate from other Google ad data.

Of course, we already knew that was a restriction handed down by regulators around the world, as the European Commission approved the acquisition last month with those requirements about keeping Fitbit data separate from other ad data as one of the caveats. Google itself has been promising to not use Fitbit user data for advertising purposes since it initially announced the acquisition as well.

As Rick Osterloh notes in his own statement, Google also has to keep offering access to certain Android APIs related to fitness, as one fear with Google’s acquisition of Fitbit is that it could squeeze other companies out of the fitness/health tracking space by restricting those APIs. “We’ll also maintain access to Android APIs that enable devices like fitness trackers and smart watches to interoperate with Android smartphones, and we’ll continue to allow Fitbit users to choose to connect to third-party services so you’ll still be able to sync your favorite health and fitness apps to your Fitbit account,” Osterloh said.

Indeed, a significant portion of both statements was devoted to these commitments to maintaining Fitbit user privacy. There was some vague talk of the future in both statements as well, with Osterloh saying that the two companies will “work closely to create new devices and services that help you enhance your knowledge, success, health and happiness.” Ultimately, we’ll have to wait and see what Google and Fitbit do together now that the acquisition is complete, and we’ll let you know when more is revealed on that front.


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