July 23, 2020 / 7:58 PM / 23 days ago

Seven Democratic senators urge caution on Google's purchase of Fitbit

FILE PHOTO: Fitbit Blaze watch is seen in front of a displayed Google logo in this illustration picture taken, November 8, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senators Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren and five other Democratic senators on Thursday urged the Justice Department to be cautious in reviewing Google’s planned purchase of Fitbit, saying the tech giant had already cemented its dominance in some areas through acquisitions.

In a letter to Attorney General William Barr, the seven Democratic senators expressed skepticism that the purchase was solely a bid to enter the wearables market since Google’s revenues are largely based on advertising driven by consumer data.

“Adding Fitbit’s consumer data to Google’s could further diminish the ability of companies to compete with Google in ... ad technology markets and could raise barriers for potential competitors to enter these markets,” the lawmakers wrote.

Warren and Klobuchar, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, have both been outspoken on antitrust issues. They were joined on the letter by Senators Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Mazie Hirono, Sherrod Brown and Mark Warner.

The lawmakers also noted that Google had formally told European antitrust enforcers that it would not use Fitbit’s health data to help it target ads. The senators called the offer “modest, short-term concessions.”

Fitbit’s fitness trackers and other devices monitor users’ daily steps, calories burned and distance traveled. They also measure floors climbed, sleep duration and quality, and heart rate.

Alphabet Inc-owned Google said in November that it would buy Fitbit Inc for $2.1 billion to compete in the crowded market for fitness trackers and smart watches.

The senators also noted that Fitbit had a reputation for safeguarding user privacy while Google was known for its ability to monetize consumer data.

Google along with Apple, Amazon and Facebook face a slew of antitrust probes. Its chief executive, Sundar Pichai, will appear along with the CEOs of the other tech giants on Monday on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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