Google closes deal to buy Fitbit as Justice Dept probe continues

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Search and advertising giant Google has closed its deal to buy Fitbit, the companies said on Thursday, even as the Justice Department said it was continuing its probe of the $2.1 billion transaction.

The Justice Department, which sued Alphabet Inc's Google in October for allegedly violating antitrust law in its search and search advertising businesses, said it "has not reached a final decision about whether to pursue an enforcement action" regarding the Fitbit deal.

Google had said it was buying Fitbit, which makes a watch-like device to measure physical activity, as a way to enter the devices market and was hoping to address privacy concerns.

"We worked with global regulators on an approach which safeguards consumers' privacy expectations," Google said in a blog post, which said Fitbit had 29 million active users.

"(That includes) a series of binding commitments that confirm Fitbit users' health and wellness data won't be used for Google ads and this data will be separated from other Google ads data."

While Alphabet is best known for a free service, its market-leading Google search engine, it has many other businesses, including online advertising services, audio device and thermostat maker Nest, video company YouTube and self-driving car company Waymo.

Google won EU antitrust approval last month for its Fitbit bid after agreeing to restrictions on how it will use customers' health-related data.

Google's plan to buy Fitbit immediately raised concerns when it was announced in late 2019 because of its already rich trove of data about people, what they buy, where they travel, and more.

Fitbit's fitness trackers and other devices monitor users' daily steps, calories burned and distance traveled. They also measure floors climbed, heart rate, and how long and how well people sleep.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Jan Harvey)

01/14/2021 16:13

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