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Google may have announced its intention to purchase Fitbit last year, but deals between large corporations like this move slowly. Regulators in both the US and EU have expressed concern about the world's largest ad company gaining access to potentially sensitive health data gathered by Fitbit's wearable devices, and Google's reassurances haven't helped. After an initial review by the European Commission, it has decided to press ahead with an in-depth investigation into the merger that is expected to be completed by December 9.
The inquiry will explore the use of data in healthcare and whether Google intends to use said data to gain an unfair advantage in the growing market. European Commission Executive VP Margrethe Vestager says the goal of the probe is to "ensure that control by Google over data collected through wearable devices as a result of the transaction does not distort competition.” Google has reiterated that the deal is about devices, not data, and stated its belief that the acquisition will benefit consumers by improving the next generation of wearables.
In a blog post, Google's Devices and Services SVP Rick Osterloh responded to the news, saying "We appreciate the opportunity to work with the European Commission on an approach that addresses consumers' expectations of their wearable devices." He also said that Google had put forward a legally binding commitment to the EU regarding Fitbit data use and would give consumers the choice to delete their data at will.
Google has faced increased scrutiny in recent years due to its ever-expanding size and scope, not the least of which was the recent inquiry by Congress. The deal with Fitbit has attracted criticism from healthcare providers as well as rival wearable companies, who are worried about Google boosting the dominance it enjoys in several markets with new user data from Fitbit. Despite Google's statements that it will not use the health data to target ads, it looks like members of the EU Commission still aren't convinced that Fitbit is a good fit for Google.