Fitbit Insire HR
Todd Haselton | CNBC
When Mike Carpenter learned that Google's last acquisition would be Fitbit, the manufacturer of a device he used at all times of the day, except in the shower, he left his Fitbit Charge 3 on the table in his office where he was working that day. He and others like him have not collected his since.
On November 1, Google said it would buy Fitbit for $ 2.1 billion in hopes of boosting its hardware business to establish itself in the health space. Google explicitly said in the announcement of the agreement that it will not sell your personal or health data. Despite that guarantee, some Fitbit users say they don't trust the company and are abandoning the product altogether.
"I am not only afraid of what they can do with the data today, but of what they can do with them once their AI advances in 10 or 20 years," Carpenter told CNBC, saying he did not believe the privacy guarantees of the company. "Health insurance companies would love to have access to that data and their purposes would not be advertising, is that what they are going to do with them? They did not spend the money to not use them in any way."
The tendency of people to throw or threaten to throw their Fitbit devices occurs when Google faces a perception problem that has covered everyday users and regulators alike. The company has paid fines for data privacy in the EU and made recent advances in the strictly regulated health industry, which has caused the public to reconsider seemingly harmless tools. Privacy groups began this week to pressure regulators to block the acquisition of Fitbit, which the company originally expected to close in early 2020.
Google did not respond to requests for comments.
"I recently understood it and now I'm thinking that I don't need Google to literally look at each of my steps or every beat of my heart," said Dan Kleinman, who said he is getting rid of his Fitbit Versa.
Some people cited the acquisition of Nest Labs by Google in 2014, which at that time consisted of smart home thermostats. Since then, the company has linked Nest's technology, brand and device accounts with its digital assistant and smart speakers.
"I use a lot of Google services and I think they do a decent job, but I'm not interested in adding my health data to their systems," said Fredrik Matheson, who got rid of his Charge 3 after the announcement. "At the moment when my wife, who is not in technology, heard that Google had agreed to acquire Fitbit, she asked me to find out which watch her Fitbit should replace."
Twitter users have been tweeting about their plans to get rid of their devices upon learning of the acquisition.
"With the news of the acquisition of your company, I intend to sell my Fitbit and delete my account," said a tweet from Tanya Janca, who received several hundred retweets and I like it. "I like your product and have enjoyed it for many years, but I value my privacy very much. The possible aggregation of data makes me feel extremely uncomfortable."
Some critical users say they are now considering Fitbit's main rival, the Apple Watch, while others yearned for the early days of low-tech fitness tracking.
"This can push me to pay for an Apple Watch and get rid of my current Fitbit (assuming I still want something tied to my wrist to collect data about me)," author Stephen Anderson tweeted. "Can we bring Pebble back?"
Carpenter and Kleinman later pointed out the news about Google's association with the health giant Ascension, saying they were happy to have made the decision to leave their Fitbit devices behind. "Google could know what medications I take and what medical diagnosis I have," Carpenter said. "It makes me feel sick to my stomach."
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