Last week, Google purchased Fitbit – one of the longest-standing leaders in the wearables space – for the not-so-insignificant sum of $2.1 billion.
While this acquisition is the latest in a long line of investments made to deepen Google’s Wear OS platform commitment and finally introduce Made by Google wearable devices into the marketplace, most tech experts believe this move means something more.
A Decision Driven by Data
Beyond adding some of the industry’s most intelligent hardware and software teams to Google’s wearable technology initiatives, the acquisition of Fitbit gives the combined organization something else. Something potentially even more valuable – user data.
That’s because Fitbit currently features over 28 million active users that rely on the company’s devices to count steps, monitor heart rates, track sleep patterns, and more every day. What remains to be seen – and what scares many of these users – is exactly how Google intends to use (and inevitably monetize) this information.
Despite Fitbit gaining HIPAA compliance in 2015, Google is still legally allowed to use the company’s collected user data for its purposes – provided the information involved doesn’t pertain to their health or well-being, of course. That means personal data like location, device used, friends and contacts lists, messages, profile photos, employee wellness program participation, and usage logs that have yet to be given protection or anonymization assurances are potentially at risk.
Fitbit Policy vs. Data Privacy
But who’s to say that Google won’t break this promise to share Fitbit’s historic user data with internal teams like so many other Silicon Valley companies have done? Considering the organization has already been fined £175 million for violating the European Union’s data privacy rules – and that its primary income generator is targeted, data-driven advertising – it’s reasonable to believe improper practices could occur.
Practice Makes Progress
Regardless of how Google uses this data moving forward, its parent company Alphabet will undoubtedly use this acquisition to catch up to competitors like Apple that have been much more involved in the healthcare space to this point.
Fitbit’s clinical trials experience and existing industry relationships with research firms, insurance corporations, and wellness program directors create the potential to deliver significant developments where Alphabet’s Verily Life Sciences and Calico efforts are concerned. Whether this will lead to wearables and healthcare technology market share gains or data privacy violations, however, is anyone’s guess.
If you’re concerned about protecting your organization’s data privacy efforts, enroll in AOTMP® University’s Introduction to Data Privacy Course today!