The big problem when you’re a tech giant, is that no one wants to see you get any bigger. Google is one of those tech titans and it appears that their planned acquisition of Fitbit last year for $2.1 billion is getting held up because certain antitrust regulators are concerned that the company may just gain further access to consumer data and have too much information on their clients. I would argue that Google already has far too much data and probably knows everything that a Fitbit can tell them anyway.
According to The Financial Times, European Union regulators have sent 60-page questionnaires to Google and Fitbit’s rivals, asking them to assess how the acquisition will affect the digital healthcare space; whether it will disadvantage fitness tracking apps hosted in Google’s Play Store; and how Google might use the data to profile users for its search and advertising business.
The EU are not the only ones concerned by the potential acquisition as CNET is reporting how more than 20 consumer groups from the US, Mexico, Canada, and Brazil have written to regulators in the US over concerns that the acquisition will create a data monopoly:
Google could exploit Fitbit’s exceptionally valuable health and location datasets, and data collection capabilities, to strengthen its already dominant position in digital markets such as online advertising. Google could also use Fitbit’s data to establish a commanding position in digital and related health markets, depriving competitors of the ability to compete effectively
These concerns come despite the fact that Google has previously stated that Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads, and that the acquisition is “about devices, not data.” Google is currently struggling to gain traction in the wearables space and hopes to make use of Fitbit’s wearable tech to try and reverse that trend. Something which stands in Google’s favour because neither of them possesses a market dominance in the wearable space, it will be hard to convince regulators that they will indeed form a monopoly.
It will be interesting to see if this acquisition does indeed go through and whether it will set a precedent for all big tech firms and their future acquisitions as they all come under closer scrutiny not just for their market dominance, but more specifically their ownership of data. A space which largely remains underregulated. The deadline for the EU on the decision is set for July 20, though given the detail contained in their questionnaires, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a delay in this date. Plus other countries may still want to weigh in on the discussion and the US Department of Justice is still completing their own investigation.
Are these tech companies too big? Probably, but the issue is probably not something for regulators themselves to solve and these companies will only continue to get bigger and more dominant over time.
Last Updated: July 6, 2020