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Last week, Google announced the acquisition of fitness technology giant Fitbit for $2.1 billion, sending the entire tech industry into a frenzy. However, it would seem that the reputation of one of the largest firms in the world could jeopardize this ship before it sails.
According to a report by British news medium The Daily Mail, a lot of disgruntled Fitbit users have balked at the prospect of being subjected to the perceived antics of Google, and are now beginning to ditch the Fitbit watches for wearable devices designed by rivals such as Apple, Xiaomi, and Garmin.
What is more important to Google….. The Fitbit watch or the Fitbit data that they have accumulated since 2007.
— Stephen Siu (@Stephen_Siu) November 8, 2019
The ruckus about Google and what the acquisition of Fitbit could mean for data has been ongoing since the deal was announced. Many have examined how consumers’ health data could now be accepted, and by all indications, the concerns are in no way negligible. As things stand, Fitbit has about 28 million users. It keeps confidential health data about these users, which could be beneficial for a lot of large health companies that Google already works with. Pharmaceutical companies could use the data from Fitbit to analyze the most prominent diseases troubling citizens of any country or region, guide their research, and create drugs that address prominent ailments.
It seems impossible, but #Google is about to increase its obscene #surveillance program dramatically. It's buying #Fitbit to monitor our sleep, activity, exercise, heart rate & more. Fitbit doesn't use such info to manipulate us; Google will. #BeAfraid https://t.co/0SZyBNiILt
— Dr. Robert Epstein (@DrREpstein) November 3, 2019
Health insurance companies could also use the data to sell their products, providing a great way to target advertising to users who also use other Internet and social media platforms. While Fitbit does have a strong policy that prevents it from sharing identifiable information, anonymous data could still be applied and monetized nonetheless.
Now, all of that data could be potentially presented to Google, one of the big tech companies that have been constantly flagged for breaching (or, at the very least, testing the very limits of) data privacy and consumer protection laws.
So far, both companies have done their bit to assure users that this deal won’t have any consequences for their data. The statement from Google confirmed that user data wouldn’t be misused, and Fitbit reiterated in a separate statement that it wouldn’t be sharing any data with its new parent company in the first place.
As The Daily Mail noted, Google Vice President Rick Osterloh wrote in a blog post:
“With wearables, we will be transparent about the data we collect and why. We will never sell personal information to anyone. Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads. We will give Fitbit users a choice to review, move, or delete their data.”
Still, it would seem that many people would instead not put themselves in a position to trust this new alliance with their data. Given that there are so many choices available (most of them even better than the Fitbit, according to reviews), it shouldn’t be too difficult for the people who want to get other wearables to find something to settle for.
Do you believe Google won’t interfere with consumer data once it gets hold of Fitbit’s servers? Let us know in the comments?
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