Watchdogs Urge FTC To Prevent Google From Buying Fitbit

Google's proposed $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit will result in “a dramatic erosion of consumer privacy,” watchdogs say in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission.

The proposed deal will enable Google to “further consolidate its monopoly power over Internet-based services” while also increasing its “already massive store of consumer data, including highly sensitive health and location information,” representatives from the Open Markets Institute, Center for Digital Democracy, Public Citizen, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Consumer Federation of America, Oakland Privacy, Media Alliance and Consumer Action, write.

“Through its vast portfolio of internet services, Google knows more about us than any other company, and it should not be allowed to add yet another way to track our every move,” the groups add.

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They are urging the FTC to block the transaction, writing that the deal “should set off alarm bells.”

Google announced earlier this month that it plans to acquire the wearable device company. Rick Osterloh, senior vice president for devices and services at Google, said the company won't use Fitbit data for ads.

“We will be transparent about the data we collect and why. We will never sell personal information to anyone,” he wrote in a Nov. 1 blog post. “And we will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move, or delete their data. 

But critics are skeptical of Google's promises, particularly in light of the recent news that Google has gleaned access to millions of people's medical records without their knowledge, via a partnership with Ascension.

That news reflects a “practice of secrecy” at odds with Google's promise of transparency, the watchdogs say.

“Google has demonstrated its unwavering plan to acquire consumer data, regardless of its source,” the groups write, noting that the company recently agreed to pay $170 million for allegedly collecting data from YouTube users under the age of 13 without their parents' consent. “Google should not gain control of Fitbit’s sensitive and individualized health data that can be integrated with data from its current services to entrench its monopoly power.”

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