The acquisition was announced in November last year, with Google saying it would pay US$2.1 billion (A$2.88 billion) for the San Francisco-based company.
Top economists from Monash said the proposed acquisition raised a number of concerns.
“Sensitive health data held by Fitbit can be added to users’ personal profile Google aggregates from its other services, such as emails, maps and online searches,” Professor Choe said.
“While Google says it would not use Fitbit data for advertising purposes, this doesn’t rule out Google’s use of this data in other markets, such as health care."
Associate Professor Chen said Google’s bid for Fitbit was consistent with its strategy to expand into healthcare, life sciences and insurance.
“By connecting Fitbit data with user data from Google’s Cloud Healthcare API, Google can build a more comprehensive patient profile and offer more personalised healthcare,” he said.
In a paper titled Data-driven mergers and personalisation, the researchers argued that, on one hand, access to richer datasets could enable firms to tailor products and service offerings in a more personalised way.
But the downside was that enhanced personalisation and better targeting strategies could increase the search behemoth's capacity to engage in price discrimination and consumer exploitation.
The paper was included as key evidence in a submission to the European Commission and was presented to the ACCC team reviewing the Google-Fitbit case.
“We also need to worry about incentives to pre-empt competition that could threaten Google’s data collection dominance,” Professor Choe said.
“As the consensus is now firmly that preventing bad mergers is a key tool for competition policy vis-à-vis acquisitive digital platforms, the European Commission and other authorities should be very sceptical of this deal, and realistic about their limited ability to design, impose and monitor appropriate remedies.”
Associate Professor Chen said Google’s ambition was to protect its unique data empire, integrate functionalities, and monetise information through its expanding digital arms.
He said the evidence for this was obvious through the Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) with a number of its popular free services – Gmail, Calendar, Maps, Chrome and News.
Revenue from these platforms wasn’t directly sourced from the sale of advertisements, but through the collection of consumer demographic, interest and location data to better target advertisement placement.
“The Fitbit merger provides the chance for the European Commission and the ACCC to remain a frontrunner in the enforcement and guidance of merger policy in the digital era,” Associate Professor Chen said.
Professor Choe said the proposed acquisition was not just about a gadget being brought into Google’s ecosystem, but one that involved highly sensitive data that was likely to harm consumers in health insurance, medical services, and even labour markets.
“All too often, academics and policymakers look back and lament a failure to intervene more decisively and bemoan their hopeful reliance on remedies that just don’t work,” Professor Choe said.
"Blocking the merger doesn’t solve all problems related to health data, but it avoids amplifying already existing problems.”