Google announced that it has completed acquisition the popular wearable maker, Fitbit. Google’s official says that the focus of acquisition is on the devices, instead of data. The search engine giants promised that users’ health and fitness data won’t be harvested for targeted ads. Smartwatches themselves are not an ideal hardware platform for delivering marketing messages. However, acquired fitness and health data could be used to make ads on smartphone and desktop more relevant. Fitbit users can choose whether they will continue storing fitness data on their account. Even so, investigation by the Antitrust Division remains ongoing and it hasn’t made a final decision. There’s concern that tech giants are becoming more dominant and this could harm consumers and market competition. Consumer trust is essential in the tech sector. Strong security and privacy will need to remain in place since day one of the acquisition. We would see whether Google could remain transparent about collected data. The company has its own online advertising program and it’s not ethical to subject Fitbit users to unwanted Google ads.
Despite Google’s promise, Fitbit feels like another piece of the puzzle. Google has access to granular and massive information about its users through Chrome, Drive, Calendar, Gmail, Maps, YouTube and other services. With Fitbit, the company finally has a way to monitor lifestyle and daily activities of its users. This is a great opportunity to fill the data gap. Fitbit boasts unparalleled user dataset, because smartwatches are worn and they continue to collect metrics using various sensors. Google may refrain using current existing Fitbit user data. However, as future Fitbit-branded products become more integrated into Google’s ecosystem, users may consciously decide to integrate Fitbit smartwatches with other Google’s services. This allows Google to start accumulating user data.
At the end of the day, tech sector is about acquiring, analysing and using data. Google may eventually get a new unobstructed way to collect data, once users give their consent. The company will know about the current health and fitness status of users, whether they have hypertension, common cold or sedentary lifestyle. However, Fitbit has been focusing itself more on fitness implementations. This is indicated by the Fitbit Premium service that provides fitness coaching for users. Fitbit devices are popular, because they offer longer battery life and lower pricing. This is achieved through underpowered processed and stripped-down operating system. That being said, Google can still gain benefit by capturing a share in the low-end market segment. Alphabet has subsidiaries in healthcare sector, such as Verily, that applies data in healthcare solutions. Calico focuses on the longevity and anti-aging research. As a huge tech conglomerate, Alphabet also has an ambition in healthcare with hundreds of patents related to life science. It also collaborates in pharmaceutical companies. As an example, Sanofi, the French pharma company uses Google’s cloud data solutions and machine learning capabilities
Looking at the big picture, the acquisition of Fitbit opens new opportunities for Google, despite the commitment not utilize data of Fitbit users. With the increasingly deteriorating public sentiment towards major tech companies, Google may face regulatory penalties and bad publication if it uses data inappropriately.