Google said on Friday that it is acquiring Fitbit, the maker of fitness-tracking devices, for $2.1 billion to close the gap with Apple in the growing market for wearable electronics and to add muscle to its expanding hardware business.
The deal is likely to face regulatory scrutiny from agencies already investigating Google for antitrust concerns, because Fitbit collects sensitive health and activity information from users through the device. Heading off a potentially thorny point, Google said it would not use health data gleaned from Fitbit devices in its core advertising business.
That’s a worthless promise. The Monster of Mountain View will say whatever it needs to say right now to get this acquisition through. A few years down the line, they can change course and there’ll presumably be nothing to stop them.
Buying Fitbit is part of Google’s play to compete with Apple in every market segment Apple is in. The Cupertino giant designs phones, tablets, computers, and smartwatches, and has them made in Asia for markets the world over. Google used to be purely a search, advertising, and software services company, but it has expanded into phones (with its Pixel line) and partnered with companies to Dell to make what are called “Chromebooks” (dumbed down computers that don’t run a proper operating system and aren’t cheaper than computers running Windows). It also bought Nest so it would have a lineup of “smart home” devices.
Now it wants to own Fitbit.
This acquisition is not in the public interest. Fitbit may want to sell itself, but it should not belong to a company that is waging a war on privacy. People’s personal health information says a lot about them, and there’s no way Google can be trusted to look after that information. Monetizing information about people is what Google does. It’s why the company exists.