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Google’s $2.1B acquisition of Fitbit faces DOJ probe: sources

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Google, Fitbit

Google’s $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit will face scrutiny by the Department of Justice amid data privacy fears, The Post has learned.

The controversial merger in recent days was cleared for review by the DOJ after federal law enforcement tussled with the Federal Trade Commission, which had also sought authority to investigate the deal, according to a source close to the situation.

Both agencies are concerned that a Google-owned Fitbit would give the search giant an even bigger window into people’s private data, including sensitive health information, sources said.

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Under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, all large mergers must file proposals with both the DOJ and the FTC, but only one antitrust agency reviews the merger.

Historically, most Google deals have been reviewed by the FTC, which in February created a “technology task force” to monitor anti-competitive behavior in Silicon Valley.

But the DOJ also is presently investigating Google for broader anti-competitive issues. In September, it asked Google for documents related to past FTC antitrust investigations.

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That larger investigation was the main argument the DOJ made when asking for the Fitbit review in what a source described as a real “arm wrestle” between the agencies.

“The DOJ’s handling of Fitbit will give an early read on the Google investigation,” a DC source said.

With the DOJ probing the Fitbit deal, a DC antitrust attorney also noted, “There is a more direct line from the White House.”

President Trump has criticized Google for alleged anti-conservative bias. In August, he said he was closely watching the search giant.

Earlier this month, “60 Minutes” reported that Google had taken down more than 300 ads from Trump’s re-election campaign this summer for violating the search engine’s advertising policies.

Last month, Public Citizen and the Center for Digital Democracy urged the FTC, thinking it would get the case, to block the merger, arguing it would give Google the chance to collect more personal data including sensitive health information.

“Through its vast portfolio of internet services, Google knows more about us than any other company and it should not be allowed to add yet another way to track our every move,” the groups said in a letter to the FTC.

This fall, the DOJ reviewed Google’s June $2.6 billion acquisition of cloud analytics company Looker Data and cleared it in November.

Source: New York Post

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