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Google accused of tracking Android users without their consent

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Hannah Boland
·2 min read
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The Google logo
The Google logo

Privacy activist Max Schrems has accused Google of tracking Android phone users without their consent and called for an investigation into the tech giant.

Noyb, a group set up by Schrems, filed a complaint in France against Google on Wednesday, alleging that the company does not obtain permission from Android phone users when creating unique advertising codes.

“While these trackers clearly require the users’ consent,” Google “neglects this legal requirement,” the group said. “Noyb therefore filed a complaint against Google’s tracking code.”

Google's advertising codes work in a similar way to Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), allowing the tech giant to track users across websites and deliver adverts based on their browsing history.

Google did not respond to requests for comment.

Max Schrems - JULIEN WARNAND/EPA
Max Schrems - JULIEN WARNAND/EPA

Mr Schrems is best known for having taken on Facebook in a landmark case which led to key judgments in how regulators judged data transfers between the US and Europe.

Last summer, Europe's top court decided to throw out the US data-sharing deal due to concerns that US surveillance laws were too far-reaching - something Mr Schrems described as "a total blow to the Irish DPC and Facebook".

Facebook had responded by saying it was "carefully considering" the ruling and was "looking forward to regulatory guidance in this regard".

The EU’s revamped data protection law in 2018 opened the door to mass lawsuits, which led to the creation of Noyb and a promise by Schrems to “look for the bigger cases” with the biggest impact.

Mr Schrems's group Noyb filed a complaint against Apple in November for how it was tracking iPhone users.

Apple described the claims in that case, which also centered around user consent, as "factually inaccurate”. Apple is in the process of overhauling its user tracking system, curbing apps' access to users' unique Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) and requiring them to ask explicit permission from users, in a major privacy push.