Privacy Advocates Fear Google Will Mine Fitbit’s Health Data

Google’s $2.1 billion Fitbit deal is sparking privacy concerns that the search giant will mine the health data of the 27 million people who use the fitness tracking device, The Financial Times (FT) reported on Thursday (Nov. 21).

Privacy advocates and politicians have asked regulators to block the deal, fearing Google will tap Fitbit’s data to launch a healthcare service.

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) said earlier this month there are “serious concerns” the deal could give big tech an advantage in the growing personalized healthcare industry. 

Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), chair of the House antitrust committee, has said the deal “would threaten to give [Google] yet another way to surveil users and entrench its monopoly power online.”

The Open Markets Institute, Public Citizen and the Electronic Privacy Information Center are among the organizations that feel Google should not get control of Fitbit’s health data and “entrench its monopoly power.” They said that Google should not be handed “yet another way to track our every move.”

Rick Osterloh, Google’s senior vice-president for devices and services, said in the blog post that Google would be “transparent about the data we collect and why.”

“We will never sell personal information to anyone. Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads. And we will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move, or delete their data,” he said in the post when the deal was announced.

University of Tennessee law professor Maurice Stucke told FT that regulators have to come to a decision whether Google’s access to Fitbit data could give them an unfair competitive edge.

“When you have a company like Google, which has violated privacy laws multiple times . . . you can imagine it will raise significant concerns,” he said.

The deal is leading some Fitbit users to ditch the device over fears that their data won’t be safe.

“Google could know which medications I take, and what medical diagnoses I have,” former Fitbit user Mike Carpenter said. “It makes me feel sick to my stomach.”