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Google clears legal hurdles slowing acquisition of Fitbit

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Full Fitbit smartwatch, tracker, and scale family image for 2019 Q3.

Google has completed its acquisition of smartwatch maker Fitbit after a protracted investigation by the US Department of Justice into the protection of customer data was concluded.

The DOJ was looking into whether rich data from Fitbit watches and fitness trackers could be used to target customers with personalized advertising in a way that distorted competition.

There is some uncertainty over whether the deal is finalised. According to CSNBC, Google says the DOJ is satisfied and the deal is closed, but Reuters is reporting that the investigation could continue or be reopened at a later date.

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“This deal has always been about devices, not data, and we’ve been clear since the beginning that we will protect Fitbit users’ privacy,” Google’s senior vice president of devices and services Rick Osterloh said in a statement.

“We worked with global regulators on an approach which safeguards consumers’ privacy expectations, including a series of binding commitments that confirm Fitbit users’ health and wellness data won’t be used for Google ads and this data will be separated from other Google ads data,” he added.

The issue is not so much about competition between smartwatch makers. Without Fitbit, Google is not in the hardware game, but competes with Apple’s software platform and apps with Wear OS and third party apps on its Play Store.

James Park, CEO, president and co-founder of Fitbit, is delighted that the deal is done and reflects on what the company has achieved in just a decade.

“Since shipping the original Fitbit tracker in 2009 to now having sold more than 120 million devices in over 100 countries, this mission has never wavered. Instead, millions of you joined that mission, and made Fitbit a movement that transformed lives. In some cases, we heard from our users that we even helped save lives. Together, we’ve taken 275 trillion steps and logged over 15 billion hours of sleep,” he says.

“This is just the beginning because becoming part of the Google family means we can do even more to inspire and motivate you on your journey to better health,” he continues.

“We’ll be able to innovate faster, provide more choices, and make even better products to support your health and wellness needs. On our own, we pushed the bounds of what was possible from the wrist, pioneering step, heart rate, sleep and stress tracking. With access to Google’s incredible resources, knowledge and global platform, the possibilities are truly limitless.”

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