The first Fitbit activity tracker was launched in 2009, eliciting a world of exciting opportunities. Not only did the brand become synonymous with accessible hardware, but also its excellent software. Plus its social networking, mobile app, sleep tracking and subscription coaching which set it apart from other fitness wearables.
In September this year (2020), Reuters announced Google was getting closer to closing the deal. Meaning, Apple and Samsung could soon be battling against new competition.
So, what does this revelation mean for those who already own Fitbit products?
Google And Fitbit – What’s Happening?
Is there anyone on the planet that isn’t familiar with the Google brand? Considering this technological giant is permeating every element of modern life, and doesn’t appear to be slowing any time soon. And from its internet search engine to its Pixel entry into the smartphone market, Google is on the rise. So it comes as no surprise that the brand is keen to enter the wearables market too.
The recent news that Google will be acquiring the Fitbit brand for over $2 billion marks its entry into the realm of fitness and health data, and, of course, there are several significant antitrust and privacy issues surrounding this pending acquisition.
Users are asking, and rightly so, what happens when Google can access all of their fitness and health data then combine that information with all of the other information about them that it has derived from other Google services and its search engine?
Will I Receive Targeted Adverts?
There are now nearly 30 million active Fitbit users worldwide, wearing a broad spectrum of Fitbit wearables which collect a huge amount of personal data regarding sleep, heart rate, exercise and activity patterns. Fitbit devices also have inbuilt GPS tracking while also being customizable to collect further data about performance, diet and health. Even dates of birth and gender are recorded since users are requested to supply this information in order to have their fitness activity properly tracked and analysed. Now, all of that data will be within Google’s reach.
In the past, the tech giant could have made educated guesses about users’ overall diet and health based on their Google searches, but now, precise details will be known. Does this mean that Google will take this data and put it to use to deliver targeted advertising?
Will personal health and fitness data become raw material used to create new Google adverts?
How would this look in practice? Well, let’s assume someone has been wearing their Fitbit to track their daily run. Google could easily take that information and use it to show the wearer adverts for running sneakers. Somebody who has been tracking their heart rate with their Fitbit may be sent adverts for specific non-prescription medications.
When we add in the ability of Google to access GPS data in real-time, it’s easy to see how adverts could be even more tailored to the individual. Google could easily pinpoint a Fitbit wearer’s location and show them adverts for local cafes, restaurants and stores.
However, according to Reuters, they’ve made promises not to exploit Fitbit data for Google ads. Also, they say they’ll seek explicit consent for use with third-parties. So you can rest assured.
Will My Insurance Be Affected?
With Google being able to access personal fitness and health data through Fitbit devices, there are some major concerns about whether wearers’ health insurance could be impacted. Some insurers are now providing incentives to encourage people to wear a Fitbit, so it’s only natural to be worried that Google’s combined data about wearers could lead to changes in insurance premiums, or even in the type of policy which users could be offered.
Will Personal Information Really Be At Risk?
One of the top concerns of those who already own a Fitbit is whether there will be any risk to their personal information. The good news is that Google have been clear in their statement that they won’t be selling any personal data to anybody, and no Fitbit wellness or health data will be used for any Google ads. However, there are still concerns about whether or not Google will find other, more creative ways of monetizing Fitbit users’ data. This data could be used to tie services and software together in order to sell more of Google’s other services, and offers yet another access point for this tech giant to enter into users’ lives.
Can I Trust Google With My Wellness Data?
For those who already own a Fitbit or who are considering buying one in the near future, the news of the $2.1 billion acquisition deal is almost certainly going to be met with mixed feelings. Can wearables users really trust Google? Will their wellness and health data be safe in the tech giant’s hands?
Although the Fitbit acquisition by Google may appear to be about hardware, in reality, it’s about data, and Google won’t just be acquiring a raft of fitness trackers, it’ll also be acquiring a host of fitness and health data which it could, in theory, put to work for its own aims and benefit. It isn’t surprising, then, that so many people have already reported their worries on the subject, expressing their fears that they will be bombarded with adverts, face higher medical cover premiums and put themselves at risk of even more security breaches as such major organizations are in the line of fire when it comes to cyberattacks.
Yet, despite these worries, the news that Google is taking over Fitbit could actually be positive in terms of security and privacy. Google is one of the biggest tech companies in the world, and as such, has the essential resources to ensure that any issues in these areas are addressed rapidly and efficiently. If users can’t trust a giant company like Google which has balances and checks in place to secure their data, who can they trust? And who knows what the future will hold, but Fitbit users are waiting in nervous anticipation to find out.
What of Google wearables? Check out our predictions for the Google Pixel Watch.
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