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Google makes data pledge to win EU nod for Fitbit deal

Google offered an improved package of concessions to avoid shutting out rival fitness trackers and apps.
Image: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Google offered an improved package of concessions to avoid shutting out rival fitness trackers and apps in a bid to clinch European Union approval for its $2.1 billion takeover of Fitbit, the company said in a statement.

Building on an earlier pledge not to use Fitbit data for Google ads, the company is trying to assure rival trackers and apps that it won’t shut them off from Google services.

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The company is “formalising our longstanding commitment to supporting other wearable manufacturers on Android and to continue to allow Fitbit users to connect to third party services” via applications if they want to, it said in the Tuesday statement.

The new offer hits many of the points brought up by rivals concerned that the deal could create a powerful controller of personal data that could also prevent competing apps and wearable trackers from working with Google’s services. If feedback from rivals and customers is positive, the European Commission could then approve the Fitbit deal before a December 23 deadline.

The EU dismissed an earlier pledge to keep Fitbit data separate from Google’s information last month, saying it didn’t address all its concerns and didn’t include all Fitbit data that could be used for advertising.

Antitrust agencies are increasingly suspicious of tech giants’ takeovers, aiming to prevent the already powerful firms from conquering innovative new markets where data is often the most prized asset.

The EU opened an in-depth probe into the Fitbit deal last month to check how Google could bolster its “data advantage” in online advertising with information it collects from Fitbit’s wearable trackers.

The EU’s wide focus on online ads clashes with Google’s view that the “deal is about devices, not data” and that it’s adding a service — wearable health devices — where it currently isn’t active and faces plenty of rivals from Apple Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Garmin Ltd. and others.

“The wearables space is highly crowded, and we believe the combination of Google and Fitbit’s hardware efforts will increase competition in the sector, benefiting consumers and making the next generation of devices better and more affordable,” Google said in the statement.

© 2020 Bloomberg

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