Google's Fitbit deal may win EU approval despite concerns from rivals, report says

Some competitors say Google's promises on using Fitbit's data for advertising don't go far enough.

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Eli Blumenthal is a senior editor at CNET with a particular focus on covering the latest in the ever-changing worlds of telecom, streaming and sports. He previously worked as a technology reporter at USA Today.
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Google announced its purchase of Fitbit in November.

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Google's $2.1 billion purchase of Fitbit is getting some pushback in the European Union. Rival makers of wearables are reportedly concerned that the search giant's promises on using Fitbit's data for advertising don't go far enough. 

According to the Financial Times, several "major hardware makers and leading cloud services providers" have raised issues with the EU about some of the pledges Google is making to get the deal approved. Some, such as a promise to not use Fitbit's health data for targeted advertising for 10 years, "do not go far enough," people "close to the discussions" told the outlet.

Concerns over Google getting too powerful in the wearables market and trying to "self-regulate" were also issues raised by these companies after the EU sent a questionnaire asking "a range of health tech companies whether Google's new solutions were sufficient to assuage their concerns over antitrust and privacy." 

The Financial Times reports that "Garmin, Samsung and consumer group BEUC are among those to have been consulted," though it also notes that the EU regulators are "finding it hard to justify blocking the deal" despite the concerns being raised.

"This deal is about devices, not data," a Google spokeswoman told CNET in a statement. "The wearables space is highly crowded, and we believe the combination of Google and Fitbit's hardware efforts will increase competition in the sector, benefiting consumers and making the next generation of devices better and more affordable." 

"We have been working with the European Commission on an updated approach to safeguard consumers' expectations that Fitbit device data won't be used for advertising," the company spokeswoman said. "We're also formalizing our longstanding commitment to supporting other wearable manufacturers on Android and to continue to allow Fitbit users to connect to third-party services via APIs if they want to."  

Announced in November, the Fitbit deal would give Google a much-needed boost in wearables, where the company's Wear OS platform has fallen behind rivals from Apple , Samsung and Garmin. 

Despite the objections, the EU is close to giving its blessing, Reuters reported last week. According to the news agency, Google offered to "restrict the use of Fitbit data for Google ads and would also tighten the monitoring of that process" to help get the deal approved.