Apple’s iCloud Private Relay feature drives carriers crazy

iPhone 12 Pro

Photo: Caitlin McGarry / Gizmodo

Apple’s new Private relay the feature for iPhones does not fit well with providers, and some operators are doing everything they can to turn off the privacy setting before it reaches your iPhone.

Announced at last year’s WWDC, Private Relay is one new iCloud + feature pushing your web traffic requests through encrypted VPN-like filters so no one – not even Apple – can see your internet traffic. It vitally protects you from ISPs or websites that may use your DNS records and IP address to generate profiles and display targeted ads.

Instead of tunneling your data as a VPN, Private Relay encrypts your data before sending it through an Apple-managed proxy server that disconnects the DNS request from your IP address and then moves it to an undisclosed “trusted” partner “using a false approximate IP address. Although it has several limitations – the feature only works in Safari, you need a paid iCloud + account and it does not hide your region – Private Relay is generally considered a useful privacy tool if it is not a full VPN.

According to a report from The Telegraph, European airlines mason the function. An open letter (via a report from The Telegraph) signed by carriers Vodafone, Telefonica and T-Mobile claim that Apple’s new privacy feature would hinder their ability to manage networks and violate the EU’s digital sovereignty.

The way private relays are implemented will have significant consequences in terms of undermining European digital sovereignty. Furthermore, private relays will hamper others to innovate and compete in digital downstream markets and may have a negative impact on operators’ ability to efficiently manage telecommunications networks, ”the letter reads.

Operators expect the European Commission to label Apple a “digital gatekeeper,” a title the report claims could “stop services like private relays.”

There are also reports going around suggesting that T-Mobile / Sprint in the US is blocking Private Relay when your phone is connected to its mobile network, but that may be a simplification of what’s really going on.

Twitter user Jon Guidry (via 9to5Mac), a T-Mobile customer, tried to activate Private Relay, but was instead greeted with a message explaining that the feature was “turned off for your mobile subscription”, warning that the network can therefore monitor him.

Some news outlets suggested that T-Mobile’s network might slowly roll out this feature, which would explain why some customers may still enable Private Relay. Leaked documents published by The T-Mo report provide a more likely explanation: that customers with certain content filtering and blocking features, such as T-Mobile’s Web Guard, will not be able to access Private Relay because it violates these services.

It is also worth mentioning that a T-Mobile support site responded to the above Twitter post and promised to “dig directly into this with you and make sure your access is 100%.” We had no issues activating Private Relay on an iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 15.1.1 on T-Mobile, and we did not encounter any notification that it was turned off. Nor did it AppleInsider by testing with 25 users who previously had the feature turned off.

We have contacted both Apple and T-Mobile to get an explanation of what exactly is going onn. Private Relay is currently in public beta in iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey. The function is switched off by default and must be activated manually in Settings.


Give a Comment