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Google Fitbit deal gets EU approval, but Fitbit users get some protection

The European Union has finally approved Google’s proposed takeover of Fitbit, but there are some conditions in place to protect European users.

In order to get the approval, Google has agreed not to use Fitbit users’ data for targeted advertising, meaning none of the health data and the GPS details will inform the ads those users see.

There are further protections for users in the European Economic Area (EEA) who will be able to opt out of enabling their data to help boost other Google-run services, like Search and Maps.

Google has also committed to keeping the Fitbit Web API open for the next ten years in order to help ensure there’s continued competition in the health and wellness space.

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“We can approve the proposed acquisition of Fitbit by Google because the commitments will ensure that the market for wearables and the nascent digital health space will remain open and competitive,” said Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission EVP after approving the buy-out.

“The commitments will determine how Google can use the data collected for ad purposes, how interoperability between competing wearables and Android will be safeguarded and how users can continue to share health and fitness data, if they choose to.”

While this is generally good news for Fitbit users worried about how their years of data will be treated now it’s in the hands of Google, it could be the end of the road for those who were hoping the deal would be struck down altogether.

How all this affects Brits remains to be seen. With Britain now out of the European Union, it’s unclear whether the conditions will apply to users in the UK. We can expect a lot of this confusion moving forward, certainly until a deal over the future relationship between the European Union and the UK is settled.

For the sake of Fitbit users’ privacy and rights, it would be preferable if Britain ensured the EU’s decision is replicated UK shores.

Google announced its intentions to buy Fitbit for $2.1 billion a little over a year ago. It still has some hoops to jump through in other territories before it can be rubber stamped, but the deal is finally approaching the finish line.

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