Android Ad Identifier Violates EU Privacy Law, Activist Claims

An Android device identifier that is used for ad targeting violates European privacy laws, Austrian activist Max Schrems alleges in a new complaint filed with French regulators.

The Android advertising ID -- a re-settable alphanumeric string that ad-tech companies draw on to target mobile users across apps -- “is very similar to a tracking ID stored in a browser cookie,” Schrems' organization, Nyob (None of Your Business), says in a complaint submitted to France's data protection authority.

The watchdog argues that Europe's broad privacy laws require companies to obtain consumers' consent before storing tracking data on their devices, or allowing other companies to access that information.

Schrems' organization compares the Android identifier to a “digital license plate,” writing that the identifier serves a purpose similar to cookies stored in consumers' web browsers.



“Every action of the user can be linked to the 'license plate' and used to build a rich profile about the user and their preferences,” the complaint states. “Such profile and preferences can later be used to target personalized advertisements, in-app purchases, promotions etc.”

The organization recently made a similar complaint about Apple's Identifier for Advertising. (Apple plans to soon require app developers to seek consumers' consent before accessing that identifier.)

Nyob is asking the French regulators to fine Google and order the company to revise its practices.

Google and other tech companies are facing increasing scrutiny by privacy regulators in Europe. Late last year, the French National Data Protection Commission fined Google $121 million for allegedly setting non-essential cookies without obtaining users' prior consent.

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