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Friday, March 05, 2021

Google completes Fitbit deal: What does it mean for user data, existing devices?

Google has officially completed its acquisition of Fitbit, the company best known for its fitness bands and smartwatches. The deal was originally announced in November 2019 for $2.1 billion.

By: Tech Desk | Chandigarh |
Updated: January 15, 2021 12:42:46 pm
Google, Google Fitbit, Google Fitbit deal, Google buys Fitbit, Google Fitbit acquisition, Fitbit deal, Fitbit user privacy, Fitbit user dataFitbit Blaze watch is seen in front of a displayed Google logo in this illustration picture taken, November 8, 2019. (Image source: Reuters)

Google has officially completed its acquisition of Fitbit, the company best known for its fitness bands and smartwatches. The deal was originally announced in November 2019 for $2.1 billion. However, the acquisition is still under investigation from the US Department of Justice over anti-competition and anti-trust charges.

Fitbit user base, existing devices

The device Fitbit devices will continue to function as they are. Fitbit has close to 29 million active users and both companies are trying to reassure that their private, health data will not be used to target them for advertisements. Given the nature of Fitbit devices, many of which come equipped with heart-rate tracking, ability to track sleep, steps and other activities of users, how this data is handled will be crucial.

Fitbit has so far sold more than 120 million devices in over 100 countries. The company revealed that so far users have logged a total of 275 trillion steps and over 15 billion hours of sleep using the devices. While Fitbit has loyal users, it is nowhere close to Apple or Xiaomi in terms of shipments, and has struggled to remain in the top five. On its part, Google has not seen success in the fitness segment, and its Android WearOS devices failed to make any impact.

Google has no equivalent to the Apple Watch in the market, and this deal with Fitbit could help the company also focus on fitness devices, which is what Google SVP for hardware Rick Osterloh tried to underline. He asserted in his blog post that the deal is not the data, but rather devices, adding that they will continue to “work closely to create new devices and services”.

Read more: Google closes Fitbit deal amid ongoing US Department of Justice review

Fitbit user data

Both Google and Fitbit have tried to reassure users that their data will not be used for serving advertisements. Still given how these deals have played out, both companies will have to work hard to maintain user trust. Case in point would be the recent WhatsApp-Facebook furore over data sharing between the companies.

Fitbit CEO and co-founder James Park wrote in his blog that being part of Google will ensure that the company can “innovate faster, provide more choices, and make even better products” to support health and wellness needs.

He also wrote that the company plans to continue with “strong data privacy and security protections”, adding that users will have control of their data.

Park said Fitbit would remain transparent about what data will be collected and why, adding that Google will protect user privacy. He also said the search giant has “made a series of binding commitments with global regulators, confirming that Fitbit users’ health and wellness data won’t be used for Google ads and this data will be kept separate from other Google ad data.”

Further, Fitbit users will be able to continue connecting to to third party services. Meaning if they prefer another health app, they will still have the option of connecting their Fitbit account to this. Osterloh has also reiterated Park that Google had given assurances to the regulators that the data will not be used for “Google ads and this data will be separated from other Google ads data.”

He explained further, “We’ll also maintain access to Android APIs that enable devices like fitness trackers and smart watches to interoperate with Android smartphones, and we’ll continue to allow Fitbit users to choose to connect to third-party services…” Google says it will honour these commitments globally.

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