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Google pledges not to use Fitbit’s health data in bid to get regulatory go-ahead

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Google has said yesterday that it will not use Fitbit health data for targeted advertising. The search giant is attempting to address EU competition concerns on its $2.1 billion acquisition.

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Anti-trust bodies on the Continent were due to make a decision by July 20th on whether to green-light the deal. This has now been postponed until August 4th. There’s also another option of a four month extension, if the European Commission finds it has serious concerns.

Google’s hope is that a data pledge not to use Fitbit’s data for advertising will help it secure EU approval.

“This deal is about devices, not data. We appreciate the opportunity to work with the European Commission on an approach that safeguards consumers’ expectations that Fitbit device data won’t be used for advertising,” Google said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

The deal was announced in November last year. Google apparently fought off a number of bidders including Facebook. In addition to data privacy issues there are also broader anti-trust and competition concerns.

EU regulators are therefore expected to seek views from rival companies before making the final decision. Fitbit has been losing market share in recent years as smartwatches by Apple, Garmin, Xiaomi, Samsung and Huawei have gained in popularity. But it still holds data on nearly 30 million customers.

“Strong privacy and security guidelines have been part of Fitbit’s DNA since day one”, said Fitbit’s CEO James Park last year and added that “this will not change.” Google also promised in its blog post after the deal was announced that “privacy and security are paramount” and that they not use Fitbit data for advertising purposes.

The acquisition is undergoing similar probes by regulators in the US and Australia. Nevertheless, it is expected to go through in the months ahead.

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