Apple’s Best New Privacy Feature Is Angry with the Carriers

by -
Photo: Caitlin McGarry/Gizmodo – ISPs despise Apple’s iCloud Private Relay option because it makes it hard for them to monitor you. If you’re an iPhone user, you may want to avoid using Apple’s new Private Relay feature because some carriers are doing everything they can to stop it.

Private Relay, a new iCloud+ feature announced at last year’s WWDC, puts your online traffic requests via encrypted VPN-like filters so that no one—not even Apple—can view your internet traffic. It protects you from ISPs or websites that may use your DNS records and IP address to create profiles and provide targeted advertisements.

Apple-managed proxy server decouples the DNS request from your IP address and transfers it on to an unnamed “trusted partner” using a phony approximate IP address before encrypting your data. As a privacy tool, Private Relay has various drawbacks, including the fact that it only works in Safari, you need to have a premium iCloud+ subscription and it doesn’t mask your location.

Some European carriers are reportedly blocking the function, according to The Telegraph. “Digital sovereignty” in the EU is violated by Apple’s new privacy feature according to a letter signed by Vodafone, Telefonica, and T-Mobile, according to The Telegraph.

European digital sovereignty will be seriously undermined if private relay is adopted in the manner proposed. It would also hinder others’ capacity to innovate and compete in downstream digital markets, as well as severely damage operators’ ability to effectively manage telecommunication networks,” the letter states.

An EU Commission decision to call Apple a “digital gatekeeper,” which the paper states may “block services like private relay,” is expected to be made by operators.

Some reports claim T-Mobile/Sprint in the US is preventing Private Relay while your phone is linked to their mobile network, although it may be a simplified version of what’s actually going on.

If you’re on T-Mobile, you’ll get an error message when you try to activate Private Relay since the function has been “turned off” for your plan, 9to5Mac reports.

As reported by several news sites, T-network Mobile’s may be gradually implementing this capability, which would explain why some users are still able to use Private Relay. Customers who use specific content filtering and blocking technologies, such as T-Web Mobile’s Guard, would be unable to access Private Relay, according to stolen papers released by The T-Mo Report.

According to Gizmodo, T-Mobile subsequently stated that users with particular content filtering plans are unable to utilize Private Relay because it interferes with the correct operation of carrier functions.

The iCloud Private Relay is not accessible to customers who have purchased plans or features that include content filtering (e.g., parent controls), which prevents these services from functioning properly. In an email, a T-Mobile official said that “all other customers have no limits.”

Public beta versions of Private Relay are presently available for iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and Mac OS Monterey. The function is disabled by default and must be switched on manually in the Settings menu of your computer.

Update 9:05 p.m. ET: We’ve updated this piece to add a response from T-Mobile, which confirms that the service is not accessible to users who have subscribed to particular content filtering programs. Read the full statement here.