ANTITRUST

Consumer Groups Ask DOJ To Look At Google’s Fitbit Acquisition

Privacy advocates want the DOJ to look more at Google's acquisition of Fitbit

Public advocacy groups want the government to closer examine the acquisition of Fitbit by Google, due to the former’s potential as a rival in advertising, according to a Reuters report.

Google announced a deal to buy the popular fitness tracking application in November, which would give the search engine company a leg up in the fitness world like fellow competitors Apple and Samsung.

However, the deal was the subject of scrutiny by the Department of Justice (DOJ), which wanted to make sure antitrust laws weren’t being violated by the merger, giving Google too much power in the search engine world. Fitbit’s vast trove of customer data, opponents said, could lead to problems in the future.

This week, Public Knowledge and the Consumer Federation of America penned a letter to Attorney General William Barr in which they said the government should act because Google has few direct competitors in its field. They said it is “critical” to look at which assets could offer room for expansion if allowed to team up with dominant names in various fields.

Google has said it won’t use the Fitbit customer data for advertising. But the two advocacy groups said that doesn’t mean the data will necessarily be kept safe.

In the letter, the groups said Google keeping the Fitbit data to itself through the acquisition could prevent competition of a potential rival.

Google didn’t comment on the letter but said it has provisions in its apps for people to control how their data is used, including exporting it to other platforms.

In February, European antitrust authorities also warned that the acquisition could pose problems. Because of the wide amount of documents Google would be able to access from customers, the EU officials said they worried that Europeans’ private information could be at risk. As such, European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager, who has been skeptical in the past about big companies making such acquisitions, announced plans to vet the deal.

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