Google has been gradually expanding into devices. Their recent move to acquire wearables maker FitBit, however, is raising both privacy and anti-trust concerns.
By Chand Bellur
November 1, 2019 at 4:31 p.m. PDT
Google Files with SEC to Acquire FitBit
Google filed with the SEC to acquire wearables maker FitBit for $7.35 per share. The total deal will cost Google $2.1 billion — a small portion of their $121 billion cash holdings.
News of the acquisition sent FitBit stock up 15%. FitBit stock has been in decline recently, as Apple now dominates the smartwatch market.
Google Pledges to Do No Evil
Google’s move to acquire FitBit is raising anti-trust concerns. Authorities are weary of Google’s business model, which uses personal data to target advertising. Google pledged to not use FitBit’s health data for advertising purposes.
FitBit CEO James Park assured weary FitBit customers that their data will not be used against them:
“We never sell your personal information, and Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads.”
It is unclear what the data will be used for. Other Google projects have used personal health data to train machine learning and artificial intelligence systems. Back in 2017, Alphabet subsidiary DeepMind was accused of violating patient privacy by accessing National Health Service data in the UK. Again, Google pledged not to use this data for advertising, however it is being utilized.
Google Competing Against Apple in Wearables
The move to acquire FitBit will also put Google into direct competition with the Apple Watch. Apple dominates the wearables market with their popular smartwatch. It accounts for 38% of the wearables market. FitBit only has a 24% market share, which seems to be in decline as the Apple Watch becomes more popular and affordable.
Google’s acquisition could see FitBit folded into a broader ecosystem of products. Almost everyone, including Apple customers, use Google products. Google Maps and Search, in particular, are extremely popular.
Google could improve FitBit, by integrating it with Google Maps and other applications. This could make the device more appealing to customers, which could expand FitBit’s market share.