Acquisition of Fitbit by Google: Are our personal data in danger?
In November 2019, digital giant Google announced about its intention to acquire Fitbit, a company that designs, develops and markets physical activity monitors and other connected objects. . The problem? Google has a reputation for sharing our personal data instead of protecting it. But Fitbit contains special data, sensitive data about our health. The fear? That the American giant might hijack them and use them for targeted advertising purposes, among other things.
The takeover of Google
In November 2019, Google announced the acquisition of Fitbit for $2.1 billion. Why such a decision? Google wants to compete with Apple in the market for portable technologies in the field of health and sports. For Fitbit, particularly for its CEO James Park, the acquisition by Google is an opportunity to accelerate innovation in the field of connected objects, to achieve greater economies of scale and to make health tools even more accessible to all. However, this takeover, which has not yet been finalised, presents a number of problems: the possible monopolisation of the market by Google and the endangerment of our personal data.
Our personal data at risk
Fitbit’s connected objects are designed to collect data related to the user’s health in order to deliver analysis and monitoring. This data is considered sensitive in the EU and therefore must be a subject to an increased protection. However, in the hands of a digital giant, it is at risk. Several stakeholders have raised this issue, such as the European Council responsible for data protection.
They have warned the users of Fitbit connected watches about the endangerment of their personal data and its possible misue.The European Consumers’ Organisation (BEUC), a federation of 45 European consumer associations, has warned them about the use of these data but also about possible competitive practices that could jeopardise the ability of other companies to offer new products to consumers. Cepd, the European Data Protection Committee, also pointed out the high risk that our fundamental rights to privacy and personal data protection could be compromised by this takeover.
The problem for Google and Fitbit is that these opinions count in particular and especially the opinion of the European Commission.
A possible agreement?
Edpb, the European Data Protection Board, has also pointed out the high risk of compromising our fundamental rights to privacy and personal data protection by this takeover.Why is it likely to refuse? Because there is a strong chance that the data of Europeans will be diverted for other purposes than those initially planned. In order to obtain this valuable agreement, Google has promised that it will not use the health data for advertising purposes. However, this is clearly not enough, they may well use them for other purposes that may be just as damaging for us, the consumers. All we have to do now is to wait until 4 August for the European Commission to decide on this takeover.