Apple’s tracking tool is privacy activist Max Schrems’ latest target

Apple’s tracking tool is privacy activist Max Schrems’ latest target

A group led by privacy activist Max Schrems filed complaints with German and Spanish data protection authorities on Monday about Apple’s online tracking tool, claiming that it allows iPhones to store user data without their consent in violation of European law.

It is the first major action of its kind against the US tech group in regards to European Union privacy rules.

Apple says it provides users with a superior level of privacy protection. The company had announced that it would further toughen its rules with the launch of its iOS 14 operating system this fall, but in September it said it would delay the plan until early next year.

The complaints from the digital rights group Noyb were filed against Apple’s use of a tracking code that is automatically generated on each iPhone when it is set up, the so-called Identifier of Advertisers (IDFA).

The code, stored on the device, allows Apple and third parties to track a user’s online behavior and consumer preferences, vital to the likes of Facebook to be able to send targeted advertising that interests the user.

“Apple places codes that are comparable to a cookie on their phones without the consent of the user. This is a clear violation of the privacy laws of the European Union,” said Noyb’s lawyer, Stefano Rossetti.

Rosetti referred to the EU Electronic Privacy Directive, which requires the prior consent of the user for the installation and use of such information.

The new rules planned by Apple would not change this, as they would restrict third-party access, but not Apple’s.

Apple accounts for one in four smartphones sold in Europe, according to Counterpoint Research.

The claims were made on behalf of individual German and Spanish consumers and turned over to the Spanish data protection authority and its counterpart in Berlin, said Noyb, a privacy advocacy group led by Austrian Schrems that has successfully fought in two landmark trials against Facebook.

In Germany, unlike Spain, each federal state has its own data protection authority.

Rossetti said the action was not about high fines, but rather about establishing a clear principle that “follow-up should be the exception, not the rule.”

“IDFA should not only be restricted, but permanently eliminated,” he said.

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