DoJ To Investigate Google’s Fitbit Acquisition – Report

Google’s acquisition of fitness device maker Fitbit is under the spotlight in the US, according to media reports.

In late October shares in Fitbit were suspended amid reports that Google had made an offer to acquire the firm.

Days later it was confirmed that Google was acquiring Fitbit in an $2.1bn deal, which made it Google’s largest in the consumer electronics field since its acquisition of smart home device maker Nest for $3.2bn in 2014.

Fitbit probe

But the move will also position Google to compete directly against Apple in the growing smart watch market, and lawmakers reacted immediately calling for the deal to be investigated when the Fitbit acquisition was announced.

David Cicilline, chair of the US House of Representatives antitrust subcommittee, said the buyout would give Google access to users’ “most sensitive information”, including health and location data, which could in turn help further boost its market reach.

But now the New York Post reported that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) will reportedly review Google’s acquisition, over concerns about the detailed user data that Fitbit would give Google.

According to the Post, both the DoJ and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had concerns about the merger, and both could have investigated it.

But as the DoJ in June already opened a larger antitrust investigation into Google and other large tech firms, focusing on “search, social media, and some retail services”.

The FTC was given authority to investigate Facebook and Amazon, but it seems as though the DoJ will take the lead in an investigation.

Other investigations

There are also other investigations. In June the US House of Representatives launched a probe into digital markets and “anti-competitive conduct” in the tech industry.

This is because the US has been accused in the past of giving large tech companies a relatively free hand, even as in Europe firms such as Apple, Facebook and Google have been the target of wide-ranging probes and massive fines.

Democratic senator and presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has previously warned that tech companies “have too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy,” said that the head of the antitrust division within the US Department of Justice should not be involved in the competition investigation of Google and Apple.

She called on the DoJ’s antitrust division chief, Makan Delrahim, to recuse himself from the department’s antitrust investigations into Google and Apple.

Her reasoning is that his past lobbying for those two companies raised conflict of interest concerns.

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Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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