Brussels The EU Commission’s competition watchdogs have approved the planned takeover of the fitness watch specialist Fitbit by the online giant Google. However, the approval of the merger is subject to the condition that Google complies with voluntary commitments to avoid distortions of competition, as the Brussels authority announced on Thursday.
For example, the company is not allowed to use data generated by Fitbit devices to optimize its advertising business and must give users the option to prohibit the use of data for services such as Google Maps and YouTube.
The competition watchdogs had intensively investigated in the past few months whether the takeover could have negative effects on the online advertising markets. “If Google continues to expand its data advantage in personalizing advertisements that it places via its search engine and displays on other websites, it would be more difficult for competitors to keep up with Google’s online advertising services,” said the EU Commission.
This would create barriers to market entry and barriers to expansion for competitors – which would ultimately come at the expense of advertisers and website operators, who would have to pay higher prices and have less choice.
At the beginning of November last year, Google announced plans to acquire Fitbit for a good two billion dollars. It said that data from the fitness specialist should not be used for personalized advertising. At the beginning of the year, however, European data protectionists warned that a further accumulation of user information in the hands of a large tech company would pose a risk to the protection of privacy.
Fitbit pioneered the business of fitness bracelets that count steps and calories burned. However, this business has now been rolled out from two directions: Apple is very successful with its Apple Watch computer watch, which also has various fitness functions – and cheap devices from China, especially from Xiaomi, dominate simple bracelets.
More: Takeover of Fitbit: The EU must show Google clear boundaries.