DOJ can probe Google's $2.1B Fitbit acquisition, sources say

The U.S. Department of Justice has received clearance to review Google's $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit following an "arm wrestle" with the Federal Trade Commission for the investigation, sources close to the probe told the New York Post.

Major merger proposals are filed with both the Justice Department and FTC, with one agency ultimately chosen to perform an antitrust review. Google's deals have historically been investigated by the FTC, according to the Post, but the Justice Department reportedly pursued the right to review the Fitbit acquisition due to the department's ongoing broader investigation into anti-competitive issues at Google.

"The DOJ's handling of Fitbit will give an early read on the Google investigation," a government source told the Post, while an unnamed Washington, D.C.-based antitrust attorney added that the Justice Department's beating the FTC to conduct the probe will create "a more direct line from the White House" to ongoing concerns about Google's data-gathering activity.

In November, following news of Google's Fitbit purchase, consumer rights advocacy groups, including Public Citizen and the Center for Digital Democracy, issued a letter to the FTC — which they presumed would be probing the acquisition — asking it to block the merger.

"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 wrote.

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