back to article Google forks out $2.1bn for Fitbit – and promises not to exploit all that delicious health data to sling ads (honest)

Google will pay $2.1bn to acquire Fitbit, the second largest company in the wearables market, inserting itself into a world increasingly dominated by Apple – and continuing the mass consolidation of consumer technology by the Big Three corporations; Amazon being the third party. Offering $7.35 a share, Google was prepared to …

  1. JohnFen Silver badge

    Phew!

    When Fitbit bought Pebble, I kept an eye on their smartwatches, hoping that they'd produce something like the Pebble. That never happened, so I never bought any of their gear.

    Now, I'm SO happy about that, as I would be pretty angry at Google getting their hands on whatever data Fitbit collected.

  2. _LC_ Bronze badge
    Devil

    Imagine all of their stuff running Android soon ...

    Your battery's gonna last till noon then. *lol*

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Timing.

    Fitbit just launched a subscriber service with a 1 month trial period. Could the extra valuation be based on subscribers and expected revenue? The new sleep insights which show how much you toss and turn at night might also be of use to google (or should i say security services) should you be alone or with another Android user.

    1. Bsquared

      Re: Timing.

      That's an astute observation, I think. My son has a FitBit and used it to track his (disturbed) sleep patterns - you can access a nice little graph of depth of sleep through the night at a fairly granular level.

      A couple of months ago, he came and told me the detailed sleep observations were now paywalled behind their "premium" subscriber service. I thought this was greedy and bonkers, as who would pay Fitbit a substantial monthly fee just to access their own data.

      But yes, using it to plump up their valuation prior to the buyout seem like a much more likely scenario.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Timing.

        To fair they haven't pay walled anything, just added new sleep insights you previous couldn't see such as sleeping heart rate and motion, you still get sleep states and a sleep score. I did complain as I thought it wasn't on that a premium price tracker wanted a subscription for features advertised with the device, I might as well have bought a cheap one in that case. I appreciate the other features such as personal training plans and videos etc.. are cost options because I was never told I would be getting them. Needless to say they didn't care so next fitness tracker won't be a fitbit.

  4. DougS Silver badge

    Health data is the missing piece for Google

    To have personal information on every aspect of your life, and allow them to predict your death so they'll know when to start sending ads to your next of kin for funeral homes.

    1. Lorribot

      Re: Health data is the missing piece for Google

      Imagine if Google bought a company making WiFi connected pacemakers......

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: company making WiFi connected pacemakers

        Does someone make such a crazy product? Mind you I couldn't believe the stupidity of the insulin pumps.

        Obv. an actual heart monitor is a different thing to a pacemaker.

        1. macjules Silver badge

          Re: company making WiFi connected pacemakers

          Hope to God they don’t buy DexCom. Their Dexcom G6 glucose tester can now link direct into an Apple Watch 4 - imagine if Google got hold of that.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: company making WiFi connected pacemakers

            When it indicates your blood sugar is low you'll immediately see ads for Amazon 1 hour delivery of a piece of fruit.

            1. macjules Silver badge

              Re: company making WiFi connected pacemakers

              Because the love of my life is Type 1 I tend to get spammed by all of the shysters on Instagram, Twiiter etc. peddling their disgusting snakeoil cures for diabetes. Nowadays they seem to know when we have to do glucose checks and tend to hit my email right on cue.

        2. fluffymitten

          Re: company making WiFi connected pacemakers

          Yes there are WiFi connected pace makers! My brother has one (it's a combined pace maker/defibrillator). It picks up WiFi to upload data. During my brother's convalescence, he used to take a walk each day to his local Costa Coffee and his consultant could see the connection details and location in the data uploaded. He did also get a couple of calls checking up on him after some worrying data got uploaded as he was being closely monitored for months after installation.

          Downside is the WiFi use halves the lifetime of the battery so, now he's largely recovered, that feature has been switched off and the data are downloaded when he goes for a checkup.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: company making WiFi connected pacemakers

            "his consultant could see the connection details and location in the data uploaded."

            Wait, what??

            Those pacemakers just automatically connect to every open WiFi AP they see? That's utterly insane.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Health data is the missing piece for Google

        wifi (dis)connected pacemakers wouldn't be too profitable, as a one-off (unless it's on a rent-to-kill basis). The purpose is to milk the "user" for as long as they can afford it. A "disconnect" feature would come as a premium service, i.e. if you can afford this last payment. Otherwise, default is life support - free of charge FOR EVER, in exchange for access to your data, we need your dna in place of signature, a drop of blood will do, sounds like a good deal, eh?

    2. Mage Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Health data is the missing piece for Google

      No, they have already done dodgy deals with UK Health trusts.

      However no way should anyone anywhere approve this. This serves three purposes:

      1) Yet another buy in instead of development. Android was bought in and very successful for phones and tablets. Garbage on TVs and a disaster on wearables. Android & Chrome & ChromeOS replace the street view war-driving.

      2) Gather even more personal data.

      3) Compete with Apple in Apple's last niche, which having got off to a poor start the Apple Watch is inexplicably doing well.

      Thus Google buying Fitbit was inevitable given failure of Android wearables/watch and growth of Apple smart watch. Also the Apple Watch has been adding health features.

    3. Aussie Doc
      Pint

      Re: Health data is the missing piece for Google

      "Sorry to see your blood results (before you did) but can we help you with funeral plans?"

      We know where this is leading to.

      My blood's main component ------->

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Health data is the missing piece for Google

        Considering that we already get spam emails ( usually blocked/diverted) offering funeral plans now (probably because we're around 60) I'd say you were pretty much 100% right.

    4. jgarbo
      Big Brother

      Re: Health data is the missing piece for Google

      This is not about hardware, it's about another piece in the IoT jigsaw picture: health, exercise activity, location habits. The walls are closing in. Your FitBit flashes a text...

      "Quite a good run this morning, Joe. Ready for a thirst quencher, only 50 m along the street at Pep-Juice. Special today for successful 5km joggers."

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: Health data is the missing piece for Google

        Strava already has challenges where you can access discounts from energy drinks, clothing etc. after cycling or running a certain distance.

  5. Lorribot

    I remember back in the day when Symantec was buying up every product we had bought when it was independent and getting very depressed. Now it is Google buying everything just to get the data, quite depressing. I can only hope they go the same way as Symantec and all those other acquisition hungry companies that don't actually know how to run the companies they buy and where just after the assets.

    Unfortunately I fear they are more Skynet than Symantec.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Symantec's problem....

      ...has always been the Board trying to run the company and micro-manage the executives. Looks like that issue is finally being solved by Broadcom. Careful where you sling the mud as the people in the trenches always knew what the problems & and solutions were, they were just not empowered to fix them.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google promises...

    Now where have we heard that before only to find out that it that we were dreaming and... {you fill in the blanks}

    Just got back from the Gym and several people there have already decided to ditch their FitBits. They were all talking about getting an Apple Watch which is not what Google wants.

    Like me they don't want Google to get their hands on their health data although it might be too late for many.

    I just have to wonder how long it will be before Google decide to 'discontinue the service'? Like many other things that Google have tried this is very niche and may well flop once they get their hands on it. Most big companies love to mess with things that worked very well before. Look what MS did to Skype...

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Google promises...

      I was standing behind three people in a shopping centre a few days ago. They were comparing their step numbers for the day with some satisfaction. They were all severely obese.

      I remain to be convinced that any of this fitness technology has any more effect than tying a chocolate eclair just out of reach at the end of the treadmill.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Google promises...

        I can assure you that it works (pant pant pant)

      2. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

        Re: Google promises...

        So your whole view on the fitness / wearables industry is based on seeing a couple of fat people discussing step count? Have you tried going to watch a few marathons, a swim meet, or a 10k run perhaps? How about a Parkrun or a middle or sprint distance Triathlon? I think you'd find that the sheer volume of people out there using these devices to successfully help track their performances and ongoing fitness would destroy your somewhat blinkered viewpoint instantly.

        Personally I wouldn't have either an Apple or Fitbit watch as neither IMHO are really fit for purpose; but Garmin in my opinion still produce the best sports watches and I'd rate my 935xt far higher than either of the former.

    2. Wade Burchette Silver badge

      Re: Google promises...

      I can tell what will happen: The Google promise will stay true only until the heat is off. Once people stop paying attention and let their guard, then Google will quietly backtrack on this promise.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Google promises...

      I was wondering about this. The name "Fitbit" defines the niche they're in. Good for Google to grab more user data, but really it's a product aimed at a specific market. i.e. the ones that want to measure their heart rates while they drive to the gym. (Sorry cynical comment, but you know what I mean).

      And that market is of a defined size. And surely most of them probably already have a Fitbit. So it's a replacements market.

    4. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Google promises...

      Just got back from the Gym and several people there have already decided to ditch their FitBits.

      That's still x years of history for each person who ditches their FitBit that Google can snaffle up. This is why if it's not stored locally it's not under your control.

    5. Montreal Sean

      Re: Google promises...

      "Just got back from the Gym and several people there have already decided to ditch their FitBits. They were all talking about getting an Apple Watch which is not what Google wants."

      Is an Apple watch really any better for privacy? You are leaving Fitbit for fear of Google getting more of your data, and handing that data to another company (Apple) instead.

      I figure Google already has my email and I already have an Android, but Apple has nothing yet. Why would I want to give another of the big 3 my data?

      1. IGotOut

        Re: Google promises...

        Is an Apple watch really any better for privacy?

        Ask yourself this....which one is an advertising company disguised as a tech company?

        Apple don't sell your info, there is nothing in it for them.

        So think, which is the lesser of two evils?

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Google promises...

        Not to say they're anything like ideal, but I think it's very clear that Apple is much better on the privacy front than Google.

  7. Inkey
    Holmes

    Calling porkies on not using personal data

    "Similar to our other products, with wearables, we will be transparent about the data we collect and why. We will never sell personal information to anyone"

    And then this from the same elReg feed mind...

    "I understand your desire for transparency," the letter continued, before refusing to release the report because it is a staff report and they are "deliberative, pre-decisional, and an integral part of the FTC's decision-making process,” and hence outside the scope of FOIA...

    The above from a US trade commission to a US senator request on googles anti-competitive behavior

    Also tldnr... Because on balance of previous evidence its probably a lie

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Aussie Doc
    Coat

    Lulz

    I'm not generally one for great sarcasm (well, okay, only when warranted) but did anybody else Laugh Out Loud for real when reading Google's statements about how they value customers, sorry, products, and their data?

    Don't know how anybody can say those things with a straight face at Google.

    Oh, and my health insurance just happens to want to know what I'm going to do about my recent blood results and are offering cheaper funerals.

    Stethoscope's in the other pocket.

  10. Winkypop Silver badge
    Alert

    "When you use our products, you’re trusting Google with your information"

    Yeah, um, NO.

  11. Charles 9 Silver badge

    Coming Soon: The Panopticon

    Let's face it. There's simply too much interest in everyone wanting to know about everyone else. It's basic human nature. Look at China and so on. Pretty soon we'll either submit to Big Brother or get marginalized, outcast...or culled. Sheer numbers will prevent a serious pushback, especially given how many have been betrayed st least once.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Coming Soon: The Panopticon

      Its the mark of the beast as prophesied in the book of revelation, that until you have a google/apple/amazon smart watch , you shall not be allowed to buy/sell stuff via their websites which shall soon become the only way you'll be able to buy/sell stuff.

      And thus the devil will know everything you've done, everywhere you've been and there'll be no hiding place for the poor sinners of this world.....

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Coming Soon: The Panopticon

        The devil already knows all your sins. He has spies upstairs, after all. It's the mortals you gotta worry about: able to dictate terms while you're still alive.

  12. N2 Silver badge

    Google say they wont exploit it?

    Annonomised then sold to the highest bidder

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Google say they wont exploit it?

      Forget the anonymization. They'll just sell it in the clear to the highest bidder, given they wouldn't be buying it if it can't be nailed down to the individual in the first place. Plus, enough aggregate information is impossible to anonymize, as any datum can narrow down the suspects.

  13. FozzyBear Silver badge
    Pirate

    In 6 months time.....

    Dear Valued customer,

    We regret to inform you that due to recent changes in the market (We purchased full data assets from google, aka fitbit, amazon and other companies that are willing to sell their data for a quick dollar), we are cancelling your health insurance policy

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: In 6 months time.....

      What makes you think they're not already doing it on their own? You see it already with auto insurance ("Install this Big Brother fob in your OBD or we triple your rates.").

    2. Korev Silver badge

      Re: In 6 months time.....

      My Swiss insurer offers discounts for if you link your tracker to their website and do a certain amount of steps per day. They don't however include other sports so if you cycle five hours a day then it doesn't register it...

      1. Stu_The_Jock

        Re: In 6 months time.....

        " They don't however include other sports so if you cycle five hours a day then it doesn't register it..." Have you considered that this is due to the fact that as an insurer, they know about the way drivers tend to drive around cyclists, and therefore see it as an an increased risk of one of their other policy holders having a claim against them when they hit a cyclist who "suddenly appeared from nowhere" (but I wasn't looking at my phone, or "Couldn't see for the low sun" (yet continued to drive at full speed), and of the course the old SMIDLSCSY (Sorry mate I Didn't Look So Couldn't See You)

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We will never sell personal information to anyone

    cause we don't like sharing profits with anyone

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We understand this is a big responsibility and we work hard to protect your information

    know what I mean, know what I mean? Nudge nudge, say no more...

  16. IGotOut

    Google won't sell your data...

    We'll leave that to Alphabet....

  17. Danny Boyd
    WTF?

    “When you use our products, you’re trusting Google with your information." How true!

    Wait a sec - WHOM am I trusting with my information?!

  18. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Phone: Allow Google Play Services to access motion sensors?

    Everybody: No.

    Google: We'll see about that...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    muppet talk

    “Similar to our other products, with wearables, we will be transparent about the data we collect and why. We will never sell personal information to anyone. Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads. And we will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move, or delete their data.”

    What a muppet this dude is ... Who really believe this non-sense ?

  20. Evil_Goblin

    Got rid of my Fitbit couple years ago, this reminded me to go in and actually delete my account and data, thanks Google!

  21. julian.smith
    Mushroom

    Bye Bye slurp

    I've ordered my Xaiomi Band 4 as a replacement.

    China is no realistic threat with my isolated data.

    Another Google connection severed.

    No Microsoft connection either.

    Pound sand capitalist asshats

  22. JDX Gold badge

    Waze

    I haven't used this but have heard it's really good. I never knew it was bought by Google - doesn't it compete with their core Maps products? Are they planning to integrate it as part of Google, or do they just own it?

  23. Rich 2 Silver badge

    Inaction as usual

    Obviously Googlies have only one aim with this - to grab even more data from users.

    I think the blame is with government though - just make harvesting this data for uses other than EXPLICITLY (ie - opt-in) stated by the user, illegal. Instead, we have endless enquiries that take so many years to complete that by the time they do finish, everyone has forgotten what the issue was, and today's issue is massively more important anyway. I simply cannot understand why no legislation has been passed on this. We have GDPR but let's face it, it sounds good on paper, but how much has actually changed? I think the biggest effect has been the death of whois. And that's about it.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Inaction as usual

      That won't work. Look at the cookie policy mess. You'll just end up with harvest walls where you can't do anything without saying, "YES, TAKE MY PRIVACY, JUST LET ME THROUGH ALREADY!" Does Click Fatigue ring a bell?

  24. martinusher Silver badge

    Advertising is a self-sustaining -- and meaningless -- ecosystem

    I know that companies like Google and Facebook make big money from targeted advertising based on slurping user data but has anyone actually checked to see if any of this advertising works? I get annoyed by popups and unwanted advertising and this habit of taking over substantial amounts of screen real-estate to serve up meaningless advertisements, but its chiefly because of its impact on the performance of my systems. I rarely go "Wow", I must buy that power inverter or get 'smarter security' ". (BTW -- ElReg -- this must qualify as one of the most inane advertising campaigns I've ever come across.) Its an unfortunate fact of life that marketing people live in a world of their own, often totally disconnected from reality, and people in that world thrive by convincing other people in same world of the value of their contributions. Its a self-promoting vortex that leaves people like myself cold. It also chews up vast amounts of corporate revenue.

    Instead of pausing and thinking about this corporations seem to have just doubled down. I've already had products that track steps and heart rate -- they've been around for a decade or more -- and the ones that require interacting with a corporate website rapidly fell into disuse. Its wasn't just the 'spying', its the inconvenience, the unnecessary bloat that's sold as 'enhancing the consumer experience' (tip -- it isn't). This is the reason why I've shown little to no interest in IoT -- its not that I don't understand the value of interconnecting 'things', I've been doing it as part of my job for decades, its just the technobloat not only makes things unwieldy, it makes them unreliable and potentially unsafe. So I'll collect my personal health information but its not sprayed all over the Internet, its shared with my provider and then only as a 'need to know'. But as I've learned from my work arguing common sense -- or ethics -- with marketing people is just a waste of time so expecting any kind of change is pointless, not even 'natural selection' makes a dent in their believe system.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Advertising is a self-sustaining -- and meaningless -- ecosystem

      No. Nobody has ever checked if spending £millions and £billions is worthwhile. All these companies trying to manage a razor-thin profit margin have never attempted to measure if there are benefits or ROI for their advertising spend. Bean-counters querying how many pencils an employee can reasonably use in a year or how to shave 1p per employee from toilet paper usage are happy to accept massive advertising bills without caring if it achieves anything.

  25. Ken Hagan Gold badge
    Coat

    Why are these devices not isolated by design?

    (OK, I know the answer, but if I weren't a dismal cynic awaiting the end-times...)

    There's no technical need to post all this data off to the internet. The watch could store all the data locally until it gets back into the range of a trusted device and those trusted devices could do all the processing and data storage that you need, talking to each other over the owner's domestic Wi-Fi. The hardware is a data logger. The software isn't much more complicated than load of numbers stored in a git repository, with a browser front end running on top of a load of Python.

    Is there just no market for products that don't plunder your privates to enrich the nearest unscrupulous bastard?

    1. confused and dazed

      Re: Why are these devices not isolated by design?

      Agreed, but not enough people seem to care. I bought an OMRON blood pressure monitor - offering graphing functions. When I got it, it became clear the functions were only on their site. why would they not let me export a .csv ? I can guess. Returned it, but I feel people on this forum do not represent the wider population who many, happily have a voice activated "friend" in their homes ....

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