Privacy campaigner targets Apple's use of device tracking for advertisers

Posted:
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A European privacy advocate has filed legal complaints against Apple in Germany and Spain over the existence of iPhone tracking that has been used by advertisers.

Credit: AppleInsider
Credit: AppleInsider


As advertisers protest against Apple's plans to limit their use of iPhone users' device tracking, a privacy campaign group in Spain and Germany wants Apple to block the feature entirely. Max Schrems leads a group which has now filed a complaint with courts in those territories, and hopes a successful outcome will lead to other countries demanding the same.

Schrems formed the Noyb organization, ("My Privacy is None of Your Business"), following his success as a law student whose complaint about Facebook lead to EU rulings on data transfer. Now he is targeting the IDFA or Identifier for Advertisers that has let companies track iPhone users across sites and at times in how they use particular apps.

According to Bloomberg, Schrems' group, Noyb (None of Your Business), has delivered two complaints to the Spanish and German authorities about Apple's IDFA. The specific complaints have not been published, and neither Apple nor the two authorities have commented.

"With our complaints we want to enforce a simple principle: trackers are illegal, unless a user freely consents," Stefano Rossetti, Noyb lawyer said in a statement. "Smartphones are the most intimate device for most people and they must be tracker-free by default."

"The action refers to only German and Spanish users," Rossetti told Bloomberg, and specifically ones who complained about Apple. However, he maintains that a successful ban in Spain and Germany could lead to Apple being forced to change its systems worldwide.

"[It] would be difficult for the company to continue doing with millions what was declared illegal for two countries," he said.

Apple is in the process of limiting the use of IDFA, and will shortly require iPhone users to specifically state whether they wish to allow tracking. This is part of iOS 14 and had been intended to go live along with that software, but has since been delayed to early 2021.

Schrems's Noyb organisation has previously filed a complaint with Austria's authorities over the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It accused Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, and YouTube, of failing to comply with this privacy regulation.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 5
    Ugh ... wasn't there just a brouhaha from EU advertisers trying to say that Apple asking if a user wants to be tracked was interfering with their business and Apple shouldn't be allowed to ask the user?

    Now there's these guys who are saying that the user shouldn't even be give the choice and the option should be eliminated and that all advertiser blocking should be mandatory. (Of course, if you do nothing then all that advertiser blocking doesn't exist - so this would require all manufacturers to actively implement a software blocking feature - which I'm not sure these people understand).

    Then there's EU regulators talking about whether or not tech companies should be broken up or not. Or whether smartphone makers can include applications with their phones.

    There seems to be a lot of hubris coming from the EU nowadays - especially considering the devices in question are not designed or manufactured in the EU. Lots of conflicting opinions over there about what techs should have to do - especially considering the EU doesn't really appear to have any tech companies - except maybe for Spotify which always seems to be whining about something and who is constantly losing money and suing everyone (including the artists who create the material they stream: "How dare you ask for a bigger cut of our streaming revenues?").

    The EU seems to think they have dominion over the entire world - like Chinese Communist Party with their Hong Kong criticism prohibition - and that their judgements should cover everyone everywhere.
    mjtomlinwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 5
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,174member
    Purely guessing, it may have to do with IDFA tracking warnings applying to everyone but by Apple itself. I don't know what Apple does with the data collected or how it's related to advertising (it is in some part) as it's not something they discuss but Apple exempts themselves from the tracking notification. 
    edited November 2020 Pascalxx
  • Reply 3 of 5
    thrangthrang Posts: 893member
    Reading different versions of this story on different sites, and its difficult to ascertain what the actual complaints is/are...

    In part, I read Schrem's comment that one issue that the tracker blocking solution is PERMIT by default, and expressly requires a DENY action by a user?

    "With our complaints we want to enforce a simple principle: trackers are illegal, unless a user freely consents," Stefano Rossetti, Noyb lawyer said in a statement. "Smartphones are the most intimate device for most people and they must be tracker-free by default."

    But from what I've read, it doesn't actually work like that - you are prompted the first time the system detects a tracking action (you've reached a "fork in the road"), and you then decide which path you want to follow. That seems to me the most reasonable balance between the users and advertisers, and certainly makes it clear prior to any tracking. Unless I have this wrong.

    Further, why this approach would result in a request to BAN the technology makes no sense, as the resulting alternative is what you have now - tracking without your knowledge.

    If his goal is to simply have all tracking banned as an unchangeable mandate, he's a bit nutty. User should have choice here (I know more than a few people that do not care if they are tracked, and like the personalized things they see as a result). Not me, but c'est la'vie. That's a personal choice issue, proving you are made aware and have an east way to control it (oh, like Apple is designing...)

    Also, I'm not sure where it's expressly stated that Apple exempts their advertising from identifiable tracking notification. I've not seen that. For some time, Apple has collected non-identifiable/anonymized data as a means to ensure privacy while providing broad indicators as to market interests and desires, and that also seems very reasonable. AKAIK, this type of anonymized data was available to third party developers as well.

    edited November 2020 watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 5
    Ugh ... wasn't there just a brouhaha from EU advertisers trying to say that Apple asking if a user wants to be tracked was interfering with their business and Apple shouldn't be allowed to ask the user?

    Now there's these guys who are saying that the user shouldn't even be give the choice and the option should be eliminated and that all advertiser blocking should be mandatory. (Of course, if you do nothing then all that advertiser blocking doesn't exist - so this would require all manufacturers to actively implement a software blocking feature - which I'm not sure these people understand).

    Then there's EU regulators talking about whether or not tech companies should be broken up or not. Or whether smartphone makers can include applications with their phones.

    There seems to be a lot of hubris coming from the EU nowadays - especially considering the devices in question are not designed or manufactured in the EU. Lots of conflicting opinions over there about what techs should have to do - especially considering the EU doesn't really appear to have any tech companies - except maybe for Spotify which always seems to be whining about something and who is constantly losing money and suing everyone (including the artists who create the material they stream: "How dare you ask for a bigger cut of our streaming revenues?").

    The EU seems to think they have dominion over the entire world - like Chinese Communist Party with their Hong Kong criticism prohibition - and that their judgements should cover everyone everywhere.
    It may be that EU citizens won't do anything for money, unlike Americans.

    One of my favorite jokes comes from the movie Hook. The adult Peter Pan, played by Robin Williams, is now a hedge fund manager, and says that researchers are replacing rats with lawyers because there is just some things rats won't do. 

    That fits the vast majority of Americans perfectly. 

    Ofer
  • Reply 5 of 5
    steven n.steven n. Posts: 1,222member
    larryjw said:

    It may be that EU citizens won't do anything for money, unlike Americans.

    One of my favorite jokes comes from the movie Hook. The adult Peter Pan, played by Robin Williams, is now a hedge fund manager, and says that researchers are replacing rats with lawyers because there is just some things rats won't do. 

    That fits the vast majority of Americans perfectly. 

    Not doing anything for money matches a great number of EU citizens as well:-) I have worked with and known enough people from France, Spain and Greece to know EU citizens are not some moral paragons of virtue unwilling to do unscrupulous acts to make a Euro.
    Oferhammeroftruthwatto_cobra
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