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Jan 14, 2021
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Google closes deal to buy Fitbit as U.S. Justice Department probe continues

By
Reuters API
Published
Jan 14, 2021

Search and advertising giant Google has closed its deal to buy fitness tracking company Fitbit, the companies said on Thursday, even as the U.S. Justice Department said it was continuing its probe of the $2.1 billion transaction.



The Justice Department, which sued Alphabet Inc’s Google in October for allegedly violating antitrust law in its search and search advertising businesses, said it “has not reached a final decision about whether to pursue an enforcement action” regarding the Fitbit deal.

Google said in a statement that it had worked with the department during a 14-month probe. “We continue to be in touch with them and we’re committed to answering any additional questions,” a Google spokesperson said.

It is rare for a big deal to close without antitrust approval.

Australia has also not yet approved the transaction. Google won EU antitrust approval last month for its Fitbit bid after agreeing to restrictions on how it will use customers’ health-related data.

Fitbit makes a watch-like device to measure physical activity that competes with Apple Watch and others. Google said it was buying the company in order to compete in this market.

“We worked with global regulators on an approach which safeguards consumers’ privacy expectations,” Google said in a blog post, which said Fitbit had 29 million active users.

“(That includes) a series of binding commitments that confirm Fitbit users’ health and wellness data won’t be used for Google ads and this data will be separated from other Google ads data.”

While Alphabet is best known for a free service, its search engine, it has many other businesses, including online advertising services, audio device and thermostat maker Nest, video streamer YouTube and self-driving car company Waymo.

Google’s plan to buy Fitbit immediately raised concerns when it was announced in late 2019 because of its already rich trove of data about people, what they buy, where they travel, and more.

Fitbit’s fitness trackers and other devices monitor users’ steps and calories burned. They also measure floors climbed, heart rate, and how long and how well people sleep.
 

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