It's been over a year since Google announced a $2.1 billion dollar deal to take over Fitbit, but it's been sitting in regulatory purgatory since then while the European Commission investigated the acquisition's affect on consumers and competitors. Now it looks like the EU has come to a conclusion that will allow the merger to move forward — providing that Google adheres to a set of specific guidelines about data privacy.
The conditions for approval of the deal stipulate that Google must commit to keeping Fitbit's user health data separated from its ad business, as well as allowing users in the EU to prohibit other Google apps like Assistant and Maps from viewing their fitness data. Additionally, Google is required to maintain the free use of Fitbit's web API so as not to disadvantage third-party software applications that utilize the data.
When it comes to making sure the merger doesn't hurt other competitors in the wearable space, Google has agreed to keep the APIs and underlying tools needed to make wearables work with Android free and open-source. If Google makes any improvements to the way wearables interact with Android in the future, it must make them available in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) for competitors to use.
Additionally, Google cannot give its own wearables exclusive advantages, or degrade the experience for third-party watches and fitness trackers. The EU will monitor that these conditions are kept by appointing a trustee that reports back to the Commission over the next ten years, which is the duration of Google's agreement.
While it looks like there's now a path forward for the acquisition's approval in the EU, recent actions by US regulatory bodies, including new antitrust lawsuits, are poised to make it more difficult for Google to gain approval on its home turf. Even with the European Commission's blessing, it seems likely that the Department of Justice may not think Google and sensitive health data are a good fit.
- European Commission