Google’s proposed $2.1 billion takeover of smartwatch retailer Fitbit is could be blocked by the EU over concerns it would hand the tech giant masses of consumer data.
EU regulators have launched a major investigation into the tie-up, while 20 consumer groups from across the world issued a warning about allowing the deal to pass.
The groups, which included the EU’s umbrella consumer organisation BEUC and the Consumer Federation of America warned that Google would use Fitbit’s “highly sensitive data set in combination with its own, particularly as this would increase its profits”.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s chairman Rod Sims said: “Past acquisitions by Google, of both start-ups and mature companies like Fitbit, have further entrenched Google’s position.
“The access to user data available to Google has made it so valuable to advertisers that it faces only limited competition.”
Meanwhile regulators have released two detailed questionnaires to rival fitness-tracking companies, thought to add up to around 60 pages, to understand how the deal would impact competition in the sector.
These will ask rivals to assess how this could disadvantage other apps available on the Google-owned Play Store, and whether the user’s data could help Google further improve its personalised adverts and online search technology.
Google tabled a bid for the company last October, supposedly fighting off rival bidder Facebook.
News of the potential takeover sent shares skyrocketing 27 per cent, while Google owner Alphabet’s shares also jumped two per cent.
The EU has until July 20 to decide whether to block the deal or extend its investigation into competition concerns even further.
In response to the concerns, Google said: “Throughout this process we have been clear about our commitment not to use Fitbit health and wellness data for Google ads and our responsibility to provide people with choice and control with their data.
“Similar to our other products, with wearables, we will be transparent about the data we collect and why. And we do not sell personal information to anyone.”