The European Commission announced on Tuesday August 4 that it would open a “Thorough investigation” on the proposed acquisition by Google of Fitbit, a specialist in connected objects for physical activities.
The Commission “Is concerned that the proposed transaction will further strengthen Google’s position in the online advertising markets, by increasing the already large volume of data that Google could use to personalize the advertisements it offers or displays”, writes the European executive in a press release.
“Our investigation aims to ensure that at the end of the operation, Google’s control over the data collected by means of portable devices will not distort competition”, said Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice President for Competition Policy. She stressed that the use of connected objects “Is expected to increase considerably over the coming years” and accompany “An exponential growth in the data generated by these devices”. Or, pour Mme Vestager “These data provide essential information on the life and health of users of these devices.”
The Commission rejects the solution proposed by Google
The number one search engine had announced in early November 2019 the acquisition of Fitbit, one of the world leaders in connected objects specializing in activities related to sport and well-being, for $ 2.1 billion, the transaction ahead of be concluded in the year 2020.
But this takeover has raised fears, on the part of consumer organizations and the European regulator of personal data, who see it as a threat to the confidentiality of these health data and a risk of increasing Google’s dominant position. The acquisition was notified on June 15 to the European Commission, guardian of competition within the EU. The European executive now has until December 9, 2020 to make its decision.
The American giant had tried to allay the fears of the Commission on July 13, by committing to create a system in « silo » in which “Some data collected using portable devices would have been kept separate from other data sets held by Google”. Isolated data “Would have been prohibited from use by Google for advertising purposes”.
“However, the Commission considers that the commitment regarding the data silo proposed by Google is insufficient to completely remove the serious doubts identified at this stage as regards the effects of the operation”, specifies the press release.