Popular Fitbit Facing Torrid Takeover Fight With US DOJ, Google Deal No Slam Dunk
Fitbit whose products are flying off retail shelves in Australia due to more people having time to exercise is facing a torrid fight with the US Government who despite the outbreak of the Coronavirus still wants to probe the takeover of the fitness tracking Company by Google.
What’s been revealed is that the Department of Justice has stepped up its investigation of Google’s proposed A$3.5 billion acquisition of Fitbit, a deal that critics say could pose increased threats to customer privacy.
What the US Government are concerned about is the amount of fitness and health data that Google, who are currently tracking the movement of Australians during the COVID 19 pandemic will have access to and whether Google is acting in an anticompetitive way up against publishers.
The DOJ is concerned that if Google owned Fitbit, which has 28 million users, it would give the search giant an even bigger window into people’s private data, including sensitive health information, sources said.
The second request review is a worrying sign with the department asking for more documents and taking additional time to investigate the deal.
Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, who heads the DOJ’s antitrust division, has recused himself from the case because of his past history as a lobbyist working for Alphabet’s Google.
Now, it is the Attorney General William Barr who is issuing civil investigative demands (CIDs) to parties in the investigation and will be more directly involved in the review than he would be normally, sources said.
“One would think Google would be a lower priority for government until corona clears,” Seth Bloom of Bloom Strategic Counsel told The Post. “But given Barr’s statement, it seems like he hasn’t been deterred.”
Likely, a decision on Fitbit will not happen before the conclusion of the larger Google investigation, according to Bloom, formerly a general counsel for the US Senate Antitrust Subcommittee.
“I think the Fitbit review is serious,” Bloom said. “Approval is not a slam dunk.”
“The question is what will Google do with the information Fitbit collects. You could see the DOJ forcing Google to sign a legal commitment to not use the data side of Fitbit,” Bloom continued.
When announcing the merger, Fitbit said it never sells personal information and its data will not be used for Google ads.