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Google’s Fitbit Buyout Runs Into Antitrust & Privacy Woes

Google’s planned buyout of Fitbit has hit a wall with fresh antitrust and privacy issues arising in the Australian, US and European markets, as competition officials’ concerns on how Internet giants can exert control over data for dominance continue to rise.

Google’s $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit, which was announced back in November 2019, aimed to advance the global technology giant’s parent company Alphabet in its bid to expand into the healthcare sector.

The deal is currently being investigated by the US Justice Department’s antitrust division and will likely undergo a review by the European Commission, while Australian authorities are currently monitoring the proposed acquisition, with plans for a review to occur once companies file with the ACCC.

“The concern people have is, well I might have given consent for Fitbit to have this information, but I didn’t give consent to Google, and now Google could combine it with all its other data,” said Justin Warren, Electronics Frontier Australia board member.

US antitrust enforcers are arguing that the acquisition of Fitbit’s user data will complement Google’s existing database to better maintain its Internet search monopoly, while also claiming that Google could eventually degrade Fitbit’s privacy protections in order to gather more data on users.

“The deal relates to complicated markets and market definition will be a major determinant to the outcome – what type of watch are we talking about and what health information. The potential wider benefits for Google of having access to such data will also need to be assessed in detail,” said Ioannis Kokkoris, law and economics professor at Queen Mary University in London.

Google and Fitbit have yet to comment on these developments.

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