Google has vowed to not misuse the sensitive health data it obtained with its $2.1 billion Fitbit acquisition for ad targeting to ward off a full-scale antitrust probe in Europe, reports Reuters. The search engine giant is potentially facing yet another European Union antitrust investigation, and reportedly had an option to placate most of these concerns if it pledges to not compromise existing Fitbit users’ privacy or exploit their fitness information for ads.
“This deal is about devices, not data. We appreciate the opportunity to work with the European Commission on an approach that safeguards consumers’ expectations that Fitbit device data won’t be used for advertising,” Google told Digital Trends in an emailed statement.
Google had until July 13 to offer concessions and after reviewing comments from an expansive panel, Europe’s competition watchdog is set to reveal its decision on Monday, July 20. The pledge, however, doesn’t guarantee immunity for Google and there is a chance the company could still end up in a four-month-long antitrust probe.
“The wearables space is crowded, and we believe the combination of Google and Fitbit’s hardware efforts will increase competition in the sector, benefiting consumers and making the next generation of devices better and more affordable,” added the Google spokesperson.
Since Google announced the acquisition in November 2019, the deal has drawn sharp criticism from regulators and privacy advocates across the world. However, both the companies have, on multiple occasions, claimed users’ health data won’t be abused for ad targeting.
Google also said Fitbit users will have the option to “review, move, or delete their data.” “We will never sell personal information to anyone. Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads,” Google’s hardware chief, Rick Osterloh, wrote in a blog post at the time.
Earlier this month, as per The Financial Times, Google and Fitbit were sent 60-page questionnaires to assess whether the deal will stifle competition by disadvantaging other fitness tracking apps on the Play Store, how Google could employ the treasure trove of health data to improve online search and advertising, and how it will impact the search engine company’s growing health care business.
Similarly, the Google-Fitbit merger is under scrutiny in the United States as the Department of Justice has reportedly opened an antitrust review.
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