Users ditch Fitbits privacy fears after Google bought company


People are throwing away their Fitbits over fears about privacy after Google announces $2.1 billion buyout of the wearable tech company

  • Google purchased the San Francisco-based wearables company on November 1
  • However some Fitbit users are concerned about how the firm will handle data
  • In a blog post Google promised not to sell health data or use it for advertising

If Twitter is anything to go by, the last steps measured by many Fitbits over the past week were taken to the fitness trackers’ final resting place — the bin.

Unhappy Fitbit users announced they were ditching the devices over privacy concerns following Google‘s purchase of the activity tracking firm on November 1.

San Francisco-based Fitbit Inc, which boasts 28 million worldwide users, was purchased for $2.1 billion (£1.6 billion). 

In response, many Fitbit users threatened to switch to other wearables instead — including smart watches made by rivals Apple and Garmin.

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Unhappy Fitbit users announced they were ditching the devices over privacy concerns following Google's purchase of the activity tracking firm. Pictured, the Fitbit Versa 2

Unhappy Fitbit users announced they were ditching the devices over privacy concerns following Google’s purchase of the activity tracking firm. Pictured, the Fitbit Versa 2

Unhappy Fitbit users threatened to switch to rival trackers such as those by Apple and Garmin

Unhappy Fitbit users threatened to switch to rival trackers such as those by Apple and Garmin

HOW DO FITNESS TRACKERS WORK? 

Fitness trackers such as Fitbits or smart watches monitor heart rate using a technique called photoplethysmography.

The tracker sends green light through the skin which is partially absorbed by arteries.

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As you exercise, these arteries expand as blood flow increases – meaning more green light is absorbed rather than reflected back to the tracker.

The tracker estimates your heart rate by seeing how much light is reflected back. 

The amount of light that passes back through the skin to the tracker can be affected by the amount of melanin in the skin, and any tattoos.

‘It seems impossible, but #Google is about to increase its obscene #surveillance program dramatically,’ wrote Robert Epstein of the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology.

‘It’s buying #Fitbit to monitor our sleep, activity, exercise, heart rate & more. Fitbit doesn’t use such info to manipulate us; Google will. #BeAfraid.’

‘My @Fitbit will go in the bin — who owns @Garmin?’ replied Twitter user Janet Duffy. 

Meanwhile, Claire Alexander wrote: ‘My @Fitbit Charge3 is now In the bin. Data/account deletion request made.’

‘Do you really think your UK customers #trust or will accept @Google FFS, seriously!’

‘Let’s see how the #EUdata position unfolds… #applewatch here I come’

Both Fitbit and Google have been quick to respond to the negative reactions of these users.

‘Strong privacy and security guidelines have been part of Fitbit’s DNA since day one, and this will not change,’ said Fitbit co-founder and CEO James Park.

‘The company never sells personal information and Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads.’

Twitter users responded negatively to the purchase of Fitbit Inc by Google for $2.1 billion

Twitter users responded negatively to the purchase of Fitbit Inc by Google for $2.1 billion

'Strong privacy and security guidelines have been part of Fitbit’s DNA since day one, and this will not change,' said Fitbit co-founder and CEO James Park. 'The company never sells personal information and Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads'

‘Strong privacy and security guidelines have been part of Fitbit’s DNA since day one, and this will not change,’ said Fitbit co-founder and CEO James Park. ‘The company never sells personal information and Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads’

Late last week, a Google executive addressed these concerns in a blog. 

‘With wearables, we will be transparent about the data we collect and why,’ Google vice president Rick Osterloh wrote.

‘We will never sell personal information to anyone. Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads,’ he added. 

‘We will give Fitbit users the choice to review, move, or delete their data.’



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