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After Google's Fitbit deal, EU says worrying when firms targeted for their data (reuters.com)
41 points by moneil971 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 19 comments

“In general we have a concern if companies merge because of data,” Vestager told a news briefing at Web Summit.

I'm no fan of Google buying up Fitbit but how are you going to prove that an acquisition/merger is due to data?

You're going to have to codify these regulations and big companies with lots of lawyers are going to find slippery language to get by unless you have something as clear and firm as "every data subject in Fitbit's database must opt-in to Google having access to it."

Before Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014, the FTC issued them an order [1] which said in relevant part:

"WhatsApp has made a number of promises about the limited nature of the data it collects, maintains, and shares with third parties -promises that exceed the protections currently promised to Facebook users. We want to make clear that, regardless of the acquisition, WhatsApp must continue to honor these promises to consumers. Further, if the acquisition is completed and WhatsApp fails to honor these promises, both companies could be in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Act"

Then in 2016 WhatsApp went ahead and shared all that data with Facebook [2]. Nothing happened to either party, the FTC did nothing.

So I think your question of "how do we codify what it means for a company to acquire someone for their data" might be too optimistic - we could codify it, not allow companies to share data when merging, and they can still do it anyway.

[1]: https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/public_statements...

[2]: https://blog.whatsapp.com/10000627/Looking-ahead-for-WhatsAp...

The problem with Fitbit isn’t entirely the data either, because when you get the request to consent again you essentially have an ultimatum: accept the new terms and your fitness tracking bracelet will keep working. Decline, and it won’t.

I would hope that interfaces to Apple health, etc. that work through Bluetooth will continue to work, but they still require the mobile app to facilitate it, and as far as google is concerned it’s now living on borrowed time. Two years from now and it’ll be in the graveyard along with everything else.

What do you do about that except give in and let Google acquire even more aspects of your life to resell it, or abandon the tech and produce more waste?

Which drives a point which all of us should really want anyway.

You simply shouldn't be allowed to sell physical objects forcibly linked to network services.

i.e. vendors need to publish APIs and unlock procedures in order to participate in the market.

I feel like allowing vertical integration was our biggest flaw in antitrust law. It allows lock in ecosystems. Hardware, software, and services should not be allowed to be sold by the same company.

What about purism and system76? Some integration is great, especially when one part of that integration can’t usually be profitable in its own

I was irritated to learn Purism was launching services, and I think it's both a distraction and a conflict of interest.

> I would hope that interfaces to Apple health

Google Fit integrates with Apple Health so I'm not sure there's an incentive to break anything here.

The latter sounds great

How about consumers own their data on a platform and license to posses it must be sold at a user-majority approved price with opt-in mechanics.

I am trying to understand... don't you own your data today? E.g. IIUC, you can delete your fitbit data [1].

Is the concern that the user doesn't get an explicit $ amount if they opt-in to transfer their data to a new service?

Is there any possibility that the acquirers will end up servicing the user in a better way? or do you think that these organizations will chose the most user-hostile path by providing worse service, etc?

[1] https://help.fitbit.com/articles/en_US/Help_article/1285

Does it make sense at some point to stop allowing companies to buy up any more companies? Past $10bn annual revenue? $25bn? What harm does that do, compared to letting competition / smaller companies exit peacefully? (where can I read more about this suggestion, as I'm sure it's not new?)

Sure but it’s not like Fitbit was going to survive long on its own, so if not google it would have needed another suitor. That said I am sad they had to get bought out and that they were bought out by a company which lets acquisitions whiter on the vine.

> Sure but it’s not like Fitbit was going to survive long on it’s own

Fitbit was profitable. Sure, it wasn't hyper-growth, nor was it earning insane advertiser money, but it didn't have to be those things. Fitbit had best-in-class fitness tracking hardware and software that worked cross-platform.

Fitbit should have never IPO'd, focused on reducing operational costs, and turned into a lifestyle business. They were never destined to join FAANG.

Sure, but if Google and Facebook both couldn't buy Fitbit, a smaller player would've gotten it, for a lower price. And more competition would remain.

A big reason that smaller companies (and nearly the only reason that startups) are worth so much, is specifically because big companies can buy them. Due to the boycott, Iranian companies have no option to be bought by FANG+ companies. Just look at how many startups per capital that they have compared to countries that can have their companies bought out by larger ones.

Not sure what's more alarming, these regulators looking to micromanage companies or the number of comments supporting this stuff.

The focus on tech companies is unwarranted as unlike other sectors no one's been hurt by these companies all the "harms" these policies are based of are hypothetical.

And by the way reuters are the ones making this about google.

Here in the US, I filed an FTC complaint and contacted my Congressman. Enough is enough, and the government has the power to stop this. Fitbit going away will cause massive consumer harm, both to the 28 million existing Fitbit owners whose devices will shortly become worthless, and the almost assured higher prices of the smartwatch and fitness tracker market arising from one of the cheaper brands being absorbed and killed.

If nobody bought Fitbit they were going to keep declining and then die. This way the employees keep their jobs, Fitbit can maintain our increase investment so users and competition benefit. That's what you want isn't it?

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