Daily Management Review

Complaints Against Apple's Tracking Tool Filed By European Privacy Activist


Complaints against Apple's online tracking tool was filed with German and Spanish data protection authorities on Monday by a group led by privacy activist Max Schrems. The complaint alleged that the company does not take permission from users prior to storing users’ data on iPhones, which the group claimed is a breach of European laws.
This is the first occasion when such a major complaint has been filed against the United States based Apple in relation to privacy rules of the European Union.
A superior level of privacy protection is offered by it to its users, claims Apple. With the launch of its iOS 14 operating system this autumn, it would further tighten its rules, the company had announced. However the company said in September that the plan would likely get delayed until early next year.
At the core of the complaint against Apple is the policy of the company to use a tracking code that is automatically generated on every iPhone when it is set up which is known as the  Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), claimed the digital rights group Noyb in the complaint.
A user's online behaviour and consumption preferences can be tracked by Apple and third parties with the help of the code that is stored on the device, the complaint alleged. Such usage data is crucial for the likes of Facebook as such data helps them to send targeted ads that would be of interest to the targeted user.
“Apple places codes that are comparable to a cookie in its phones without any consent by the user. This is a clear breach of European Union privacy laws,” said Noyb lawyer Stefano Rossetti.
According to the European Union's e-Privacy Directive, a user's prior consent is required to be taken by companies prior to the installation and use of such information, Rosetti said.
This business practice would not change completely even with the planned new rules of Apple because the change would only prevent third parties from accessing such data not not Apple.
According to Counterpoint Research, one in every four smartphones sold in Europe us an iPhone.
Noyb, a privacy advocacy group headed by Austrian Schrems that has been successful in winning two landmark trials against Facebook, said that the claims were made on behalf of an individual German and Spanish consumers and handed to the Spanish data protection authority and its counterpart in Berlin.
Each federal state has its own data protection authority in Germany, unlike Spain.
The aim of the complaints filed were not to score high fines against the company but was instead designed to establish a clear principle according to which “tracking must be the exception, not the rule”, Rossetti said.
“The IDFA should not only be restricted, but permanently deleted,” he said.