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Privacy Activists in Europe Sue Apple

(Noted News) — A European privacy activist group has filed lawsuits in Spain and Germany alleging that Apple has been breaking European law by tracking and storing their users’ data without permission. This is the first major action brought against the California tech-giant regarding European law.

Led by high profile activist Max Schrems, Noyb (None of Your Business) claims that Apple has installed a tracking code that gets generated every time an iPhone is set up. This tracking code is known as the Identifier for Advertisers (the IDFA) and allows third parties to analyze (or spy) on users’ online habits and consumer preferences so that companies can target them with personalized ads. 

The fact that this feature is built into the phones without the knowledge, permission, or “opt-in” of iPhone customers is the basis behind Noyb’s claims of illegality. 

Stefano Rosetti, a lawyer representing Noyb, likens the tracker to a built-in cookie that no one ever asked for. 

“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.” 

Apple recently made a rule change that would allow users to restrict third-party access, but not access from Apple itself, meaning they will still be in breach of these laws, Rosetti says. 

“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.”

These complaints were originally filed by individuals in Spain and Germany, who later conferred with Noyb to formally make their case against Apple. According to Rosetti, the Spanish and German authorities “don’t need to cooperate with the EU,” and can instead directly deal with Apple. 

Noyb has been on a privacy complaint rally the past few months, taking on companies like Facebook, Wizz-Air, Amazon, Netflix, and YouTube (Google). They’ve also launched a complaint against IT company C-Planet IT Solutions for leaking the data of voters during an election in Malta. 

“Imagine if your neighbors, colleagues, future employers, landlords, know your political opinions. This is not the kind of society we want to live in”, Noyb lawyer Romain Robert said. 

“This case shows that data protection laws are not just protecting individuals from big tech companies. The GDPR also requires that human recklessness is remedied. Collecting and storing voting preferences of almost the entire population and then leaving it available online is not acceptable.”

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