The U.S. Justice Department will investigate and review plans by Alphabet, parent company of Google, in their $2.1 billion acquisition of the fitness tracking company FitBit for possible antitrust violations, according to The Washington Post. The deal was announced on November 1, and gives Google a footing to compete with Apple and Samsung in the smartwatch industry.
Why? Watchdog groups like Public Citizen and the Center for Digital Democracy, among others, have urged antitrust enforcers to block the deal on the grounds that it will give Google even more data about American consumers. The U.S. Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission both expressed concerns about the merger, but the Justice Department had already opened a larger antitrust investigation into Google, demanding documents from the company in September.
The reason for concern from these privacy groups is legitimate considering Google’s primary business involves targeted advertising, data mining, and services that manage a lot of our digital lives. The acquisition of Fitbit, a popular fitness and health tracking device gives Google access to a lot more personalized data and access into their consumers’ daily lives and wellness habits.
The Department of Justice’s investigation is significant regardless of the outcome because it shows the emphasis of concern our government is placing on data privacy. Google’s recent deals with Fitbit and Ascension show a clear motive to cement themselves in the world of health care and health data. It is important to keep an eye out for a lot of these big tech companies facing antitrust probes and their outcomes, it will be indicative of the future handling of consumers’ privacy and data.