If you own stock in Fitbit, the fact that Google appears to be interested in buying the wearable-device maker is very good news. If, on the other hand, you own and use an actual Fitbit, it could be really bad news. According to Reuters, the world’s largest search engine’s parent company, Alphabet, is looking to make a purchase to beef up its wearable technology. As a result, Fitbit’s shares rose 27 percent after trading was temporarily halted, bringing the company’s value to $1.4 billion.
That’s certainly good news if you’re an investor, but ask yourself whether or not you’re comfortable with Google suddenly having access to even more of your personal information.
I wrote this summer about the evolution of Nest, and what effect Google has had on that company, particularly in how it handles user data and personal information. The bottom line is that Google isn’t shy about the fact that it will use your information, including information gathered by Nest, to market to you.
Imagine what that looks like when the device capturing information is something you wear all the time. It knows your activity, your heart rate, and in many cases, your location. Google hasn’t exactly shown that it’s willing to keep that kind of information siloed from the data it uses to market to you, meaning it isn’t that hard to imagine it might be interested in Fitbit entirely because of the information it gathers about you all day and night.
Google is, at its core, a software company that makes money selling ads based on users’ personal information: search habits, purchasing, locations, etc. It tracks what you do online, it knows who you communicate with, and if you use an Android device, it knows every app you use, and where you use them.
That’s a lot of information, and Google has been wildly successful at monetizing that data. In fact, it’s the largest advertising platform in the world as a result of its ability to turn your data into cash for advertisers and for itself.