Google's Fitbit acquisition finally gains EU approval

It comes over a year after the deal was announced.

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Fitbit Sense smartwatch with heart and activity data
Cherlynn Low/Engadget

The EU has approved Google’s acquisition of Fitbit more than a year after it was announced, albeit with some catches. There are some “very limited horizontal overlaps” where Google could theoretically abuse its power, the EU said, and this would keep the digital health realm both open and competitive. Most of the conditions revolve around data and Android’s support for rival devices.

As reported earlier, Google has agreed to keep health data from Fitbit and other wearables separate from its ad business, and will let European Economic Area users deny access to their health data for other Google services like Assistant and Maps. It will also maintain free access to health and fitness data through Fitbit’s web API.

The company is also obligated to keep giving Android device makers a free license to the software tools needed for wearables to operate with Android phones, including Google Mobile Services and all other frameworks offered to phone app developers. The terms also prevent loopholes — Google can’t degrade the experience for third-party wearables, or ‘cheat’ on its tool commitments by replicating those software elements outside of the Android Open Source Project.

Google has to abide by the conditions for 10 years, with the possibility of a renewal for the ad restrictions if there’s a “necessity.”

The approval is a crucial step toward Google closing the deal and integrating Fitbit’s tech with its own. Google still needs US approval to move forward, however, and that may be the largest obstacle. Both the Justice Department and multiple states are suing Google over alleged antitrust violations. While those are typically focused on ad and search issues, Google may have a tough time convincing American regulators that a hardware acquisition should go through when there are already concerns about a consolidation of power.

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