Google officially acquired wearables brand Fitbit for $US2.1bn ($3bn) last week in an effort to strengthen its hardware offering.
And while the acquisition now gives Google a direct response to Apple’s successful Apple Watch, not everyone is happy with the move.
With Fitbit trackers collecting sensitive health data, such as heart rates and sleep patterns, there have been immediate concerns around how Google might manage this data.
It seems impossible, but #Google is about to increase its obscene #surveillance program dramatically. It's buying #Fitbit to monitor our sleep, activity, exercise, heart rate & more. Fitbit doesn't use such info to manipulate us; Google will. #BeAfraid https://t.co/0SZyBNiILt
— Dr. Robert Epstein (@DrREpstein) November 3, 2019
I don’t understand why all the tech press stories today talk about Google’s acquisition of Fitbit as a hardware acquisition. Why are they being so naive? This is a data acquisition. It’s about the data. That’s why Facebook was trying to get Fitbit instead. #hellnonotmydata
— Jen Simmons (@jensimmons) November 1, 2019
Despite the public’s concerns around data usage, Google says the acquisition is all about democratising wearables.
“Fitbit has been a true pioneer in the industry and has created engaging products, experiences and a vibrant community of users,” said Google SVP devices & services Rick Osterloh.
“By working closely with Fitbit’s team of experts, and bringing together the best AI, software and hardware, we can help spur innovation in wearables and build products to benefit even more people around the world.”
Osterloh conceded that to “get this right”, privacy had to be a top priority for the merging companies.
“We will never sell personal information to anyone,” he said.
“Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads.”
Fitbit users will also be given the option to review, move or delete their data.
FitBit also vowed to continue to protect user data.
“Consumer trust is paramount to Fitbit,” the company said in a release.
“Strong privacy and security guidelines have been part of Fitbit’s DNA since day one, and this will not change. Fitbit will continue to put users in control of their data and will remain transparent about the data it collects and why.
“The company never sells personal information, and Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads.”
The deal is expected to be finalised next year, although it could attract the attention of antitrust regulators in both the US and Europe.