Another Step into Your Privacy: Google acquires Fitbit

November 18, 2019

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Technology Giant Google is to buy the health technology company Fitbit for $2.1 billion, raising concerns about the personal data of Fitbit’s 28 million users.

What does this mean?

Fitbit is a health tech company founded in 2007 specialising in fitness trackers and smart watches. Their smart devices track user’s health data, like the number of steps taken each day, sleeping patterns, heart rate and menstrual cycles. Google is planning on purchasing Fitbit for $2.1 billion and the deal is expected to close next year. The purchase allows it to compete with Apple and Samsung in the health technology market, previously having relied on third parties to produce watches compatible with its own Google-Fit. The newly found access to user’s health information for a data driven company like Google is ideal however, for Fitbit customers, there is a concern about how their data will be used. To quell fears Google has confirmed it will not use the data for any of its adverts with customers still being able to review and delete their data.

What's the big picture effect?

Inevitably, how tech giants utilise our personal data is of the utmost importance when considering the potential for conflict with personal privacy and the law surrounding it. Under GDPR laws in the UK and Europe, users can request copies of the data but also ask for it to be deleted. Nevertheless, Google already keeps multitudes of information on people, creating advertisement profiles based on this. Although Google promises a continuation of Fitbit’s privacy policy, there is little to prevent a change of heart in the future with the possibility of customers seeing adverts based on this data. Not getting your daily steps in, perhaps a gym membership?

This takeover may also raise eyebrows among regulators both in the EU and U.S. who will inquire as to whether tech companies are involved in any anti-competitive behaviour– something to keep an eye on for the budding competition lawyers. Indeed, potential presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has recently threatened to break up the tech giants and possibly reverse previous mergers (for more information, see our article on that here).

With many users unsure of how their personal data is being used tech companies are under a lot of pressure to be more transparent. With this latest acquisition it seems that Google is ever closer to tracking your every move and it will be some time before consumers see if this is a step in the right direction.


Report written by Michael Johnson

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