- The European Commission said that Google has made commitments to not use data from silo, a virtual storage of data.
- The commission said that these commitments were insufficient “to clearly dismiss the serious doubts”.
- Google stated that the deal was about devices and not data and that it will not use the data for Google ads.
The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation into Google's $2.1billion Fitbit acquisition. Google acquired the wearable company in November 2019.
The commission voiced its concerns in a press note stating that Google's acquisition will further its position in the advertising markets "by increasing the already vast amount of data that Google could use for personalisation of the ads it serves and displays."
It said that Google currently has a dominant position in the supply of online search advertising services in the European Economic Area (EEA) countries. It also noted that Google has a strong market position in the supply of online display advertising services and the supply of ad tech services.
The European Commission noted that Google had submitted its commitments to not use user data from silo, a virtual storage of data, and that it would keep its data sets separate from the ones collected from that of the wearables. Google also said that the data in the silo would have been restricted from usage for Google's advertising purposes.
However, as per the commission, Google's commitment was insufficient "to clearly dismiss the serious doubts identified at this stage as to the effects of the transaction."
The commission noted its preliminary concerns over Google's acquisition of Fitbit. They were mainly Google acquiring the database maintained by Fitbit about its users' health and fitness and the technology to develop a database similar to Fitbit's.
The commission will also examine the effects of the combination of Fitbit's and Google's databases and capabilities in the digital healthcare sector in Europe. It will further see if Google will have the ability and incentive to degrade the interoperability of rivals' wearables with Google's Android operating system for smartphones once it owns Fitbit.
The commission will make a final decision about the acquisition on December 9, 2020.
Google acknowledged that there is enough competition in the European market when it comes to smartwatches and fitness trackers from companies like Apple, Samsung, Garmin, Fossil, Huawei, Xiaomi, and many others offering numerous products at a range of prices.
"This deal is about devices, not data. We've been clear from the beginning that we will not use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads. We recently offered to make a legally binding commitment to the European Commission regarding our use of Fitbit data. As we do with all our products, we will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move or delete their data," Rick Osterloh, Google's Senior Vice President for Devices & Services in a blog post wrote.
A Reuters report in February had stated that Google is planning to move its British users' accounts out of the control of European Union privacy regulators, placing them under US jurisdiction instead. Google in the past has paid 8 million euros as fine by EU antitrust regulators for abusing its market power in online searches and the Android smartphone operating system.