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Austria Privacy NGO Takes on Apple Over 'Tracking Code'

An Austrian online privacy NGO said on Monday it was lodging complaints against Apple in two countries over the use of a code on its phones that allows tracking of user behavior.

The NOYB group said it was filing complaints with data protection authorities in Germany and Spain over Apple's use of a so-called IDFA ("identifier for advertisers") which NOYB says are used on phones "without user's knowledge or consent".

"Just like a license plate this unique string of numbers and characters allows Apple and other third parties to identify users across applications and even connect online and mobile behaviour," NOYB said in a statement.

Stefano Rossetti, a privacy lawyer at NOYB, said the way the IDFA code was used was "a clear breach of EU privacy laws".

"While Apple introduced functions in their browser to block cookies, it places similar codes in its phones," Rossetti said.

Changes announced by Apple to restrict the use of IDFA by third parties do not go far enough and would still leave the company in breach of EU law, according to NOYB.

"The IDFA should not only be restricted, but permanently deleted," said Rossetti.

Among the founders of NOYB was privacy activist Max Schrems, who has notched up a series of legal victories in over online privacy.

A legal complaint from Schrems led the EU's top court to strike down an online data arrangement known as "Privacy Shield" between Europe and the US.

In 2015, another case brought by Schrems scuppered a previous EU-US deal on which tech giants depended to do business.

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