European privacy group claims Android's ad-tracking code is illegal

The complaint comes from the same group that blasted Apple's methods.

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Google closeup logo displayed on a phone screen, smartphone on a keyboard is seen in this multiple exposure illustration, the company's symbol is globally recognized. Google, LLC is an American tech giant, a multinational technology company that specializes in Internet-related services and products, which include online advertising technologies, a search engine, cloud computing, software, and hardware. It is considered one of the Big Four technology companies in the U.S. . Amsterdam, the Netherlands on October 22, 2020 (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It's not just Apple's ad tracking coming under scrutiny from privacy proponents. Forbes reports that the advocacy non-profit Noyb has filed a complaint with France's Data Protection Authority accusing Google of violating the EU's "Cookie Law" with the Android Advertising Identifier (AAID). Google creates the unique phone ID automatically and prevents you from deleting it, violating European rules requiring "informed and unambiguous" permission, according to Noyb.

You can reset the AAID, but that doesn't eliminate past data or stop advertisers from tracking your activity using the new ID.

While the complaint was filed in France, Noyb said that nearly all Android phones in the EU were likely affected. The group, chaired by privacy campaigner Max Schrems, is betting that France can force Google to take action quickly. Noyb's complaint is based on the EU's e-Privacy directive and thus doesn't require other authorities to cooperate. A successful move could lead to a "substantial" sanction against Google, according to the non-profit.

We've asked Google for comment.

There's no guarantee this will lead to action. However, Schrems has a reputation for producing tangible results. He's part of why the EU-US Privacy Shield fell apart — there were concerns data sharing agreements wouldn't protect EU residents' data. There's a real possibility Noyb could succeed, and that could force Google to either offer more control over your device's AAID or scrap the technology altogether. That would leave advertisers scrambling to find new tracking methods, but it would also be good news if you're privacy-conscious.

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