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Department of Justice will investigate Google’s Fitbit acquisition

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Google’s acquisition of Fitbit last month prompted immediate concerns about the tech giant’s new access to sensitive health data, amid government scrutiny over its already-broad access to a range of private data on its consumers. Now, the tech giant will face a government probe over $2.1 billion deal, according to a new report. 

The Department of Justice will review the Fitbit acquisition in addition to its investigation into Google’s broader business practices, the New York Post’s Josh Kosman reported Tuesday.

Companies considering mergers are required to file proposals with both the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, so that either antitrust agency can review the deal. Many of Google’s past deals have been reviewed by the FTC, which oversees a task force that monitors anticompetitive behavior in Silicon Valley, but the DOJ reportedly fought for jurisdiction to review the Fitbit deal and argued that reviewing the merger fit in with the government agency’s broader antitrust investigation of the tech giant. 

Fitbit makes smartwatches and fitness wristbands that are capable of tracking a wearer’s sleeping habits, heart rate, and other personal information. The acquisition would give Google one of the leading companies in the growing market for wearable computing devices.

According to market research firm IDC, Apple was the No.1 maker of wearable devices worldwide in the third quarter, with a 35% share of the market. Fitbit was ranked fifth by market share. 

The Department of Justice did not respond immediately to a request for comment. The FTC declined to comment. A Google spokesperson said that it was normal for mergers to be reviewed by the government, but declined to comment on reports that government concerns surrounding Google’s business practices had magnified scrutiny over the Fitbit deal. 

Both the Department of Justice and a group of 50 state attorneys general are already investigating whether the company has engaged in anticompetitive practices. 

Google’s acquisition of Fitbit at the beginning of November, announced amid the government investigations of its business practices, quickly came under fire from US lawmakers. Republican senator Josh Hawley tweeted an immediate criticism, asking why Google should be able to acquire more companies amid an ongoing Department of Justice investigation, and House Representative David Cicilline, heading the House antitrust investigation into big tech, told Bloomberg that the deal threatened “to further entrench [Google’s] market power online.” 

The deal is expected to close in 2020, pending regulatory approval and other closing conditions, Fitbit said at the time.

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