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European activists file suit over Apple tracking tool

European activists file suit over Apple tracking tool

17.11.2020 | Becca Salamacha | U. Pittsburgh School of Law, US NOVEMBER 16, 2020 04:50:22 PM | 46

European privacy activist group Noyb filed suit Monday in Germany and Spain alleging that Apple’s tracking tool violates European data collection laws.

The suits concern Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) technology. An IDFA is a unique identifier for each iPhone that provides Apple and third-party advertisers with users’ online, application and mobile behavior.

Noyb claims that the IDFA technology violates Article 5(3) of the EU e-Privacy Directive because the IDFA tracks these behaviors without the user’s consent.

Stefano Rossetti, a privacy lawyer for Noyb, claims that the IDFA is similar to a “cookie,” which was the type of data collection explicitly prohibited by the e-Privacy Directive:

EU law protects our devices from external tracking. Tracking is only allowed if users explicitly consent to it. This very simple rule applies regardless of the tracking technology used. While Apple introduced functions in their browser to block cookies, it places similar codes in its phones, without any consent by the user. This is a clear breach of EU privacy laws…We believe that Apple violated the law before, now and after these changes. With our complaints we want to enforce a simple principle: trackers are illegal, unless a user freely consents. The IDFA should not only be restricted, but permanently deleted. Smartphones are the most intimate device for most people and they must be tracker-free by default.

Apple has responded with a plan to restrict IDFA access for third-parties. However, Noyb contends that this change will not repair the violation, because Apple itself still has access to user behavior without user consent.

Apple is not the only Silicon Valley tech-giant that Noyb has taken on, as Noyb has recently been granted judicial review by the Irish High Court to challenge Facebook’s data tracking technology.

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