Slammed by 38 state attorney generals in a third major anti-trust lawsuit, Google is waking up to a new reality: nobody trusts them anymore.
Even slivers of good news for the company— like the EU’s approval of the $2.1 billion FitBit acquisition— come with a series of strings attached.
When Google announced its acquisition of wearable wellness tech company FitBit in November 2019, regulators swarmed the deal. In August, the European Commission— the EU’s antitrust agency— opened a formal investigation into the merger over anti-trust and privacy concerns. With the probe now complete, the Commission has approved a deal centered on two major concessions:
- To ease privacy concerns, Google agreed to silo FitBit data (primarily GPS and health data) from use in targeted advertisements.
- To address anti-trust concerns, the deal ensures competing wearable companies access to Google’s Android operating systems.
The agreement will remain in place for ten years, after which the commission can extend advertisement restrictions for another ten years.
The original November 2019 acquisition is still under review from both the U.S. Justice Department and Australia’s competition authority.
The use of fitness and health data in targeted ads has long been an invasive no-no for consumer rights groups. Couple FitBit’s ability to track general levels of wellness and physical activity with Google’s ad capabilities, and it’s easy to imagine the repercussions.
In simple terms: without the EU’s restrictions, Google could use FitBit data to micro-target couch potatoes with Peloton ads. Or, perhaps, ads for pizza delivery.
Takeaway: If the powers-that-be at Google have Google Alerts set up for negative Google stories in the press, this has been quite the week. The EU’s FitBit approval is one headache they can put behind them.