EU privacy activist group Noyb claims Apple tracks users, files two complaints

Nwachukwu Glory  - Tech Expert
Last updated: November 15, 2023
Apple tracks users Noyb
  • A famous European activist Max Schrems-led group Noyb claims that Apple tracks users without their consent.
  • The privacy advocacy group has filed two complaints against the iPhone maker.
  • By default, iOS automatically generates a unique “IDFA” code for each iPhone that allows Apple and third-party applications to track users' consumption preferences and online behavior.

Apple is up against a famous European advocate Maximilian Schrems. The Austrian privacy campaigner claims that the iPhone maker tracks users without their consent.

On Nov. 16, Noyb, Noyb, the privacy advocate group that Maximilian Schrems leads, filed two complaints against the $2 trillion US company for possible infringement of European privacy laws.

The trillion-dollar company is being held culpable for alleged tracking of user activities. Apple uses its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) code that tracks iPhone users’ behavior, detailed consumption preferences, and provides personalized advertising. 

For the first time, Apple is facing such allegations under the lights of the European Union (EU) privacy rules. 

However, Noyb is not coping with this situation for the first time. Back in 2011, the privacy activist took on social media giant Facebook over privacy violations and won.

Tracking without users’ knowledge or agreement

Things kicked off when a German user and Spanish consumer complained about privacy breaches. On behalf of these two users, Noyb forwarded the cases to data protection authorities in Spain and Germany.

Noyb discovered that Apple and third-party apps have access to users’ online activities and consumption preferences. The automated IDFA code installed inside the iOS devices gathers data without a user’s permission.

The European Union “Cookie Law” strictly prohibits gaining users’ information without them knowing. Just like in the case of cookies, this requires users’ approval before sliding into their drop-box.

Apple adds IDFA code in users’ iPhone, just like it introduced features which blocked cookies in browsers. The privacy lawyer at Noyb, Stefano Rossetti, mentioned Apple does this without users’ consent, and this is a clear breach of EU privacy laws.

What does Apple have to say?

The tech giant did not take long to hit back at Noyb complaints against its tracking tool.

While directly rebutting the claims filed by Maximilian Schrems-led privacy advocacy group, Apple stated,

“The claims are factually inaccurate, and we look forward to making that clear to privacy regulators should they examine the complaint.”

The U.S. tech giant has always persisted that they provide the most superior privacy protection to its users. In June, Apple said that iOS 14 would ask for the user’s permission before accessing the system’s IDFA. The latest operating system keeps the user informed regarding the information third-party apps are gaining.

The iPhone maker has delayed the new changes in iOS 14 until 2021. Apple wants to ensure that developers have the time to make the required changes.

Noyb blog post says that the complaints are based on the EU’s Article 5(3) of the e-Privacy Directive, and it does not require the EU’s assistance. As per GDPR, the respective data protection authorities of Spain and Germany can directly fine Apple. But that looks like a thing for the future as Apple’s response suggests the authorities are yet to decide to examine complaints.

Noyb has been successful against Facebook, and it seems that Apple needs a strong delegation that can defend this. We have to wait for the initial responses of the two courts and how the case proceeds.

Consequently, Google is also under Noyb’s revision, as it also uses the same tracking system.

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About the Author

Nwachukwu Glory

Nwachukwu Glory

Tech Expert

Nwachukwu Glory is a writer, blogger, and tech nerd. She loves trying new gadgets that make life more fun ( and easier). Glory is passionate about digital security and privacy alongside browsing the World Wide Web without any limitations.

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