ACCC’s Rod Sims questions Google assurances over Fitbit data


“Given the history of digital platforms making statements as to what they intend to do with data and what they actually do down the track, it is a stretch to believe any commitment Google makes in relation Fitbit users’ data will still be in place five years from now,” he said.

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“Clearly, personal health data is an increasingly valuable commodity so it is important when consumers sign up to a particular health platform their original privacy choices are respected and their personal data is protected even if that company is sold.”

The ACCC chair pointed to previous assurances as a reason for scepticism. Google acquired internet ad services company DoubleClick in 2007, with DoubleClick denying its data would be combined with Google’s. Eight years later, Google’s updated privacy policy removed the commitment.

Mr Sims also highlighted examples from other companies, including Facebook. When the company acquired WhatsApp, it said it would not be able to match user accounts between the services. Soon after, it updated its privacy policy to allow for linking the accounts.

Google and Fitbit intend to finalise the acquisition by 2020 but it could face intense regulatory scrutiny, with Google already facing investigations in the United States and elsewhere.

In a statement when the deal was announced, Google senior vice-president Rick Osterloh said privacy and security were “paramount” and the company would be transparent about the collection and use of data.

“When you use our products, you’re trusting Google with your information. We understand this is a big responsibility and we work hard to protect your information, put you in control and give you transparency about your data,” he said.

Mr Osterloh said the company would give Fitbit users the choice to “review, move or delete their data”.

Warnings about the deal come soon after the ACCC announced legal action against Google, accusing it of misleading Android phone and tablet users about the collection of location data.

The action emerged from the regulator’s landmark digital platforms inquiry, which proposed sweeping changes to regulation of the tech giants, including stronger protections for consumer data.

The government is set to release its response to the inquiry by the end of the year following consultation with businesses.

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