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Google-Fitbit Deal Should Be Blocked by U.S., Groups Say

David McLaughlin

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. antitrust enforcers should stop Google’s proposed acquisition of Fitbit Inc. because the deal will further consolidate the search giant’s control over consumer data, a coalition of privacy and consumer advocates said.

The $2.1 billion takeover would allow Google to entrench its monopoly power in the digital marketplace, the groups said Wednesday in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission.

“Through its vast portfolio of internet services, Google knows more about us than any other company, and it should not be allowed to add yet another way to track our every move,” they said.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google is a leader in digital data, and Fitbit would give it a new stream of valuable health and activity data from Fitbit’s more than 28 million users. The purchase will mean Apple Inc. and Google control more than half of the global smartwatch market. Apple had 46% of this growing sector at the end of the second quarter, while Fitbit had 10%, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.

A Google spokesman didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment about the letter to the FTC, which was signed by Open Markets Institute, the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Federation of America, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, among others.

A spokeswoman for the FTC didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and an email seeking comment.

The deal is likely to face a stringent antitrust review. Google and other big internet companies are already under scrutiny at both the FTC and the Justice Department. A group of state attorneys general is also investigating whether Google’s business practices harm competition. Both Republicans and Democrats also have been strongly critical of practices by big technology and internet companies.

Google is separately under scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over its access to personal health data as part of a project to build a new internal search tool for the Ascension hospital network.

--With assistance from Ben Brody.

To contact the reporter on this story: David McLaughlin in Washington at dmclaughlin9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at sforden@bloomberg.net, Molly Schuetz

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