Google’s acquisition of the fitness company Fitbit is nearing completion. Following the company’s $ 2.1 billion (£ 1.54 billion) acquisition, the US government, the EU and the Australian government faced an investigation into the use of the data. Many users will have the same question: how will Google use the data from Fitbit?
It is clear what the information will be for EU citizens. It is unclear how this will affect the people of Britain in the post-Brexit world.
“While we do not know for sure, we understand that the European Commission plays the role of a general competition body for all EU member states and therefore considers the merger on their behalf.” “As the green light decision was made before the merger took place before December 31, 2020, the merger appears to have already been approved under EU law and could therefore shut down the UK”, Ioannis Kouvakas, Privacy International’s legal officer, told The Independent.
Neither Google, Fitbit, the EU Commission, nor the ICO responded IndependentRequests for more information.
The Competition and Markets Office (CMA) said there are currently no investigations into the Google and Fitbit merger.
James Park, Fitbit CEO, President and Co-founder, said in a statement: “We will continue to monitor your data and why we are transparent about what we collect, and maintain strong privacy and security.” Privacy argues that the merger will deny consumers the right to information privacy in favor of corporate profits.
UK Fitbit data is still in a difficult position, he said, explaining how data from EU citizens will be used.
In the EU, for the next decade, Google will not be able to use health and fitness data and other data collected through sensors like GPS from Fitbit devices in the European Economic Area (leaving 31 in the UK). January 2020) for Google Ads.
Google will protect a technical department – “data silo” that will stand out from other Google data, and users will have an “effective option” to access or reject health information used by Google Search, Maps, Assistant. or YouTube.
Google must also continue to work with third-party services without paying a fee for access to the Fitbit web API.
There were concerns that Google would use the combination to prevent other devices from connecting to Android phones, but the EU Commission said Google should protect these APIs (the application programming interface that allows applications to communicate).
“Such key features include connection to an Android smartphone via Bluetooth, access to the smartphone camera or GPS, but are not limited to these,” the EU Commission said.
“Enhancements to these features and relevant updates are also included to ensure this commitment is sustainable in the future.
Although the regulations last a decade, Google’s “strong position in the online advertising market” means it could be extended for another ten years if such action is needed.
However, Privacy International, a privacy advocate, said the EU Commission’s review was insufficient.
“The obligations will not be fulfilled in a way that guarantees the right of consumers to the confidentiality of information about corporate profits,” the organization said in a statement.
He said the commission did not take into account concerns about the digital health sector, which is still developing in Europe, but that it should, lest Google use its power to stifle competition.
“Nothing seems to stop Google from enriching its media with a wealth of sensitive health information and potentially exploiting our data beyond digital advertising markets,” he said.
“Google’s latest leap will change the game in all the wrong ways. It is very worrying to ensure that any company gets involved in so many aspects of our lives through acquisitions and mergers, “said Privacy International. .
Ed Johnson-Williams, a policy official at the Open Rights Group, told Wired in 2019 that “Fitbit users will wonder if they want Google to use that sensitive information and make money.” He said. information to target ads. Google must inform Fitbit users and competitors for what other purposes they will use it.
“In the past, Google suddenly disconnected devices sold to customers by the companies they buy from. Google needs to assure Fitbit users that this will not be the case. »
While the NHS states that ‘data will never be linked to Google accounts or services’, Google’s reputation in the healthcare industry is in doubt after the health-focused subsidiary restricted the transfer of DeepMind Health to the arm. central organization in 2018.
The search giant said the move was necessary to allow DeepMind, a health app that tracks kidney damage, to grow Streams, but privacy researchers called it a betrayal.
“It just came to our attention then. DeepMind said it would never link Streams to Google. The All Streams app is now a Google product. It is a brutal breach of trust for a product that is already in trouble, “said Julia Powles, privacy researcher. said then.