Google’s Fitbit acquisition to be investigated by US Justice Department

Last November Google acquired Fitbit, the tech wearables company and news has it that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) will be reviewing the acquisition particularly regarding the detailed user data which Fitbit would turn over to Google.

The New York Post reported that both the DOJ and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have concerns about the merger. Either agency could have investigated the merger, but since the DOJ had already begun a larger antitrust probe into Google last September and already demanding documents, the DOJ will be handling the investigation into the Google/Fitbit merger.

The DOJ has also made public that it will be making a wide-range probe into larger tech companies with investigations centering on ‘search, social media, and a few retail service’ companies. The FTC has given its approval for Facebook and Amazon to be investigated also.

One of the reasons for the probe into Google’s acquisition of Fitbit comes as the result of requests by several consumer and privacy rights groups. The Google/Fitbit merger could enable Google to better compete with Apple but there is a big difference between the two companies.

While Apple’s business centers on manufacturing tech devices, Google’’s primary business focuses on targeted advertising to its users, mining data and services that manage huge parts of our digital lives and acquiring a popular fitness tracking device company will give Google an even larger cache of data.

Privacy concerns could play a major role in the investigation says Justice Department antitrust chief Makan Delrahim. He said at a conference last November, just after the acquisition, that anyone would be making a major mistake to assume that privacy concerns would not have a role in antitrust analysis. Delrahim also said that a dominant company could reduce quality, such as in decreasing privacy protections, if there were no competition without even losing a lot of users.

Although there have been some restrictions that have been added to Google’s purchasing power, generally the company has had a clear path to purchase many other companies over the last two decades. 

Public criticism of large tech monopolies has been growing and as a result the Google/Fitbit merger review may show how serious the DOJ is about limiting the power of large tech companies. However, it will not be dealing with undoing any mergers that have been finalized.

So, if you are a Fitbit wearables owner it might be wise to delete your data on your Fitbit device just to be on the safe side.