Google completes Fitbit acquisition after EU probe

14 Jan 2021

Image: © PixieMe/Stock.adobe.com

The deal received approval from EU competition authorities last month – on the condition that Google makes a number of commitments.

More than a year after the deal was first announced, Google has completed its acquisition of Fitbit.

Google’s parent company revealed in late 2019 that it had agreed to purchase the fitness wearables firm for $2.1bn. However, the acquisition was delayed by competition and data concerns, with the European Commission launching a full-scale investigation last year.

The commission was concerned that the proposed deal would increase the amount of data Google can use for ad targeting. It also sought to investigate the potential impact on the digital health sector and whether Google would be able to strong-arm its rivals out of the fitness wearables market by limiting compatibility on the Android platform.

The acquisition received EU approval last month, but only on the condition that Google makes a number of commitments to ensure the wearables and digital health markets remain open and competitive.

In a company blogpost today (14 January), Rick Osterloh, senior vice-president of devices and services at Google, confirmed that the deal had been completed. He also addressed the regulatory scrutiny, writing that “this deal has always been about devices, not data”.

“We worked with global regulators on an approach which safeguards consumers’ privacy expectations, including a series of binding commitments that confirm Fitbit users’ health and wellness data won’t be used for Google ads and this data will be separated from other Google ads data,” Osterloh added.

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“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 favourite health and fitness apps to your Fitbit account.”

However, while the deal has received the green light from the EU, it is still awaiting approval from the US Department of Justice and from the Australian competition watchdog.

Next-gen devices

The Fitbit team will now join Google, and Osterloh said that teams from both companies will work closely to create new devices and services.

“We’re confident the combination of Fitbit’s leading technology, product expertise and health and wellness innovation with the best of Google’s AI, software and hardware will drive more competition in wearables and make the next generation of devices better and more affordable,” he wrote.

Fitbit was founded in 2007 by James Park and Eric Friedman. It has since sold more than 120m devices, including smartwatches, fitness trackers and accessories, and now has more than 29m active users.

Writing in a blogpost on the company’s website today, Park said that many of the things users “know and love about Fitbit will remain the same” following the Google deal. But he added that working with Google would allow the company to “innovate faster, provide more choices, and make even better products to support your health and wellness needs”.

Sarah Harford is sub-editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com