The European Union is said to have sent several questionnaires to competitors of Google and Fitbit to ask whether the acquisition of Fitbit would raise privacy or competition concerns. Privacy groups warn against the takeover, which would provide Google with too much data.
According to the Financial Times, it concerns two questionnaires of a total of about sixty pages, in which competitors are asked what consequences they think the acquisition of Fitbit by Google would have. Competitors are specifically asked whether the acquisition would harm competition, harm other fitness tracking apps in the Google Play Store, or give Google more profiling data. The competitors would also have been asked what the impact of the acquisition would be on Google’s health business.
Although the questionnaires are not yet part of an official investigation, according to the FT, the way the questions have been asked does indicate a possible upcoming investigation. According to the newspaper, anonymous stakeholders say that the questionnaires mean that the EU is preparing for an extensive investigation. The European Union could eventually block the takeover. The EU has until July 20 to decide whether to proceed with the investigation into the acquisition.
In a jointly signed letter, twenty consumer and citizen organizations indicate that they have reservations about the acquisition of Fitbit. They are concerned that the acquisition will be a ‘game changer’ for how people interact with the online world and for the digital and health market. They say Google will use Fitbit’s “exceptionally valuable health and location information and data collection capabilities to cement its own already dominant position in digital markets such as online advertising.”
According to the statement, watchdogs must assume that Google will eventually combine all the sensitive data that Fitbit has with its own data. They also point out that wearables could eventually take over the role of smartphones as ‘gateways’ to the internet. That is why governments must guard against Google becoming too big in this market, according to the signatories. BEUC, an umbrella organization for European consumer organisations, falls under the signatory organisation.
In a response to the FT, Google says it does not want to use the Fitbit data for Google ads and that it wants to give customers control over their data. At the end of last year, it emerged that the US Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the Fitbit acquisition. Google announced the acquisition in November, the company says it wants to bring more Made by Google wearables to the market.