BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, BRUNEI - JULY 25TH, 2018 : A male hand holding smartphone with Fitbit apps on an android Google Play Store.

Labour politician requests freeze of Google’s Fitbit acquisition

Image credit: Dreamstime

The announcement of Google's possible acquisition of Fitbit has sparked concern amidst the Labour party's ranks, triggering a request to halt the buyout.

Tom Watson, the shadow secretary for digital, culture, media and sport, has urged the Competition and Market Authority (CMA) regulator to freeze the acquisition of FitBit by tech giant Google.

According to Watson, acquisitions such as that of Fitbit by Google should be paused “until the CMA’s market study is concluded and its recommendations are implemented”.

Watson wrote that he has long been concerned about the data monopolies that dominate the tech market, including Google

"These companies hold and gather an unprecedented amount of data on users which is then monetised through micro-targeting and advertising to amass huge profits and power," he said. "Meanwhile, the digital giants themselves remain unaccountable, unregulated and see themselves as above the law. They have run rings around regulation for far too long".

Watson’s concern is that the deal between Google and Fitbit would not just constitute a business deal. “It’s a data grab – and that should worry us all. Any such proposal must be subjected to the most rigorous possible scrutiny and must be fully investigated by the CMA”, he wrote.

Watson posted health data as a possible concern, as Fitbit stores physical health data for its users. This data is increasingly viewed as the company's primary asset and its main value. 

San Francisco-based Fitbit sells activity trackers and wireless-enabled wearable technology devices across the world. On its website, the company informs users: "[If] we collect health data or another special category of personal data subject to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation ('GDPR'), we ask for your explicit consent to process the data".

Previously, the firm was criticised over its websitedefault activity-sharing settings. After initially making users' manually entered physical activities available for public viewing, the company responded by making all such data private by default. 

According to Fitbit's condensed consolidated statements of operations issued in August this year, the firm's six months revenue increased by 7 per cent for June this year, compared to June of 2018. Its recorded gross profit, however, fell by 15 per cent over the same period. 

In recent years, Fitbit has aggressively branched out into new tracking areas. In early 2019, the company announced that its apps are to offer a “more comprehensive view of menstrual cycle data” via Female Health Tracking.

For its part, Google has been offering users the ability to track their fitness via Google Fit since 2014. Until now, the company did not offer its own hardware to go with it, instead relying on third-parties such as Samsung to produce Android Wear smartwatches.

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