Letter to the European Commission, calling for the Google/Fitbit merger to be blocked

18 June 2020

NOT ON OUR WATCH: BLOCK THE GOOGLE/FITBIT MERGER!

Dear Executive Vice President Commissioner Vestager,

We are writing to ask you to block the proposed acquisition of Fitbit, Inc. by Google, LLC., which was officially notified to the European Commission on 15 June 2020.

If the acquisition was to go ahead, it would give Google, a company with a poor track record on competition and data protection, unprecedented access to vast amounts of sensitive personal data, jeopardising both consumers’ wellbeing and innovation across the European Union. Google already enjoys unprecedented market dominance, and enabling their move into people’s health data would give them a truly game-changing advantage against competitors, while leaving consumers at the mercy of a company that knows too much about them.

In November 2019, Google announced its plan to acquire Fitbit, which produces and sells health tracking technologies and wearables. Fitbit’s data tracking capabilities include extremely sensitive data such as heart rate, sleep pattern, oxygen saturation levels, menstruation patterns, and even data about one’s sex life.

Taking into consideration the volume, the range and the sensitivity of all this health-related data, we believe that the proposed acquisition would further entrench Google’s existing dominant and virtually unassailable market power in the general search and digital advertising markets.

The merger will inevitably reduce what little pressure there currently is on Google to compete in relation to privacy protections available to consumers.

In their press releases surrounding the merger, both Google and Fitbit assure users that no personal data will be exploited as a result of this acquisition. Google have made similar promises to regulators in the past and then reportedly broken them. We are deeply concerned that history will once again repeat itself.

The proposed acquisition should only go ahead with strong and future-proof safeguards. However, considering Google’s already dominant position, its history, and the highly sensitive nature of Fitbit’s data, we do not think this is possible.

We urge you to consider the serious implications that this Google acquisition will have for consumers’ privacy and their freedom to be human, both now and in the future. It is simply too dangerous to give one of the most powerful companies in the world access to our most sensitive personal data.

Privacy International

Access Now
ARTICLE 19
Derechos Digitales
EDRi (European Digital Rights)
Homo Digitalis
Idec  (Brazilian Institute of Consumer Defense)
Unwanted Witness