Apple faces two strategic privacy complaints in Europe by Max Schrems, a digital activist who has successfully taken over Facebook’s user data practices.
Schrems’ Vienna-based nonprofit Noyb (as in “none of your business”) filed a privacy complaint with German and Spanish regulators, alleging that Apple AAPL:
Tracks users without their consent, violating EU law.
The complaints focus on Apple’s Identifier (IDFA), a unique tracking code generated by each iPhone that allows Apple, app developers, and advertisers to track and target ads.
Noyb alleged that the default inclusion of IDFAs on iPhones is in violation of the European Union’s 2011 “cookie law”, which requires informed and explicit consent from users to store their data.
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An IDAFA said in a statement, “IDFA” allows a user on the phone to track and combine information about online and mobile behavior. “Apple maintains these tracking codes without users’ knowledge or agreement.”
The two complaints were made through the EU’s e-Privacy Directive, not the Sweeping General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), meaning that German and Spanish regulators can fix Facebook without cooperation with block officials.
“EU law protects our devices from external tracking. Tracking is allowed if users have explicitly agreed. This very simple rule applies regardless of the tracking technology used,” Knoeb Said a privacy lawyer with Stefano Rosetti.
Schrems is a high-profile activist who has successfully worked on Facebook FB,
He has argued for transferring European data to the US, given the revelations of government surveillance by whistleblower Edward Snowden, that the US does not provide adequate protection for user data.
In 2015, his complaint to authorities in Ireland – Facebook’s base in Europe – invalidated the Safe Harbor Agreement, which governed trans-Atlantic data storage. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of the European Union decided that the US-EU Privacy Shield, successor to Safe Harbor, did not adequately protect user data.
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Apple previously said it would tighten its own rules around third-party data usage, requiring applications to seek permission from users to opt-in to IDA tracking, in the latest software update , IOS 14. However, the company backed down on the idea. September, delayed changes until early next year to give developers more time to make adjustments.
Noyb’s position is that Apple’s proposed changes are not sufficient to meet the EU’s privacy requirements. The group stated, “These changes prohibit the use of IDFA for third parties (but not for Apple itself).” “However, initial storage of the use of IDFA and Apple will still be done without users’ consent and therefore would be in violation of EU law.”
“The IDFA should not only be banned, but permanently removed. Smartphones are the most intimate device for most people and should be tracker-free by default.
MarketWatch reached out to Apple for comment.