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

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

It is the first such large measure against the US technology group in relation to the data protection regulations of the European Union.

Apple offers users an excellent level of data protection. The company had announced that it would tighten its rules further with the launch of its iOS 14 operating system in the fall, but announced in September that it would postpone the plan until early next year.

The complaints of the Digital Rights Group Noyb were raised against the use of a tracking code by Apple, which is automatically generated on every iPhone when it is set up, the so-called Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA).

The code stored on the device enables Apple and third parties to track a user’s online behavior and consumption preferences. This is important so that Facebook users can send targeted advertising that interests the user.

“Apple places codes that are similar to a cookie, without the consent of the user in his cell phones. This is a clear violation of the data protection laws of the European Union,” said Noyb lawyer Stefano Rossetti.

Rosetti referred to the EU Data Protection Directive, which requires a user’s prior consent to install and use such information.

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

According to Counterpoint Research, Apple accounts for every fourth smartphone sold in Europe.

The claims were asserted on behalf of a single German and Spanish consumer and handed over to the Spanish data protection authority and their counterpart in Berlin, said Noyb, a data protection group headed by the Austrian Schrems, which has successfully carried out two groundbreaking attempts against Facebook.

In Germany, in contrast to Spain, each federal state has its own data protection authority.

Rossetti said the action was not about heavy fines, but about establishing a clear principle that “tracking must be the exception, not the rule”.

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

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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