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Trying to block Google’s acquisition of Fitbit over health privacy


Monash Business School has presented its findings to the European Commission and ACCC to thwart Google’s plans to buy Fitbit.

Researchers claim that Google can monetize the health data of more than 28 million Fitbit users. If that goes on, the deal is worth nearly A $ 3 billion.

Google announced its intention to acquire a US-based fitness company for US $ 2.1 billion in November 2019. This will give Google ownership of Fitbit and health data held by approximately 28 million people worldwide.

By the end of the year, European antitrust regulators, along with the ACCC, will decide whether to grant Google permission for the planned acquisition.

However, a group of Monash University economists found that the proposal was sufficient to oppose it.

Professor Chongwoo Choe, Director of Center for Global Business (CGB), and Associate Professor Zhijun Chen, Coordinator of the CGB Digital Economy Research Network, have worked with a number of the world’s top competitive economists to give Amikas Brief to European competition authorities. is created. Hoping they can alert on behalf of consumers in the unprotected world.

Fitbit’s sensitive health data can be added to Google’s personal profiles of users from other services such as email, maps, and online search, Choe said.

“Google says it won’t use Fitbit data for advertising purposes, but that doesn’t preclude Google from using this data in other markets such as healthcare.”

Associate Professor Chen said Google’s bid for Fitbit is in line with the company’s strategy to expand into healthcare, life sciences and insurance.

“By connecting Fitbit data with user data from Google’s Cloud Healthcare API, Google can build a more comprehensive patient profile and provide more personalized healthcare,” he says.

In a paper entitled “Data-Driven Mergers and Personalization,” researchers said, on the one hand, access to a richer dataset allows companies to tailor their product and service offerings in a more personalized way. Insist.

Meanwhile, enhanced personalization and better targeting strategies can enhance the capacity of companies to engage in price discrimination and consumer exploitation.

This paper was included as important evidence of submission to the European Commission and was submitted to the ACCC for the case team reviewing Google-Fitbit cases.

“We also need to worry about incentives to anticipate competition that could threaten Google’s data collection advantage,” says Choe.

“Currently, there is consensus that preventing bad mergers is an important tool in competition policy, so the European Commission and other authorities are very skeptical of the deal and have limited ability to design and impose. You need to be realistic about what you are doing. Monitor the appropriate remedies. “

Associate Professor Chen states that Google’s ambition is to protect its own data empire, integrate features, and monetize information through an expanding digital arm.

“This is evidenced through Google Workspace (formerly G Suite), which has many popular free services such as Gmail, calendars, maps, Chrome, and news. Revenues from these platforms come directly from the sale of ads. Not procured, but through a collection of consumers. Population statistics, interests, and location data to better target ad placement.

“The Fitbit merger provides the European Commission and ACCC with the opportunity to remain the leading candidates for implementing and guiding merger policies in the digital age.”

According to Choi, Google’s proposed acquisition of Fitbit will not only bring gadgets into Google’s ecosystem, but also confidentiality that could harm health insurance, healthcare services, and even labor market consumers. It contains highly relevant data.

“Often, scholars and policy makers look back on their failure to intervene more decisively, lament, and lament their hopeful reliance on unsuccessful remedies,” he says.

“Preventing the merger does not solve all health data related issues, but it does not amplify existing issues.”

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