T-Mobile Might Be Blocking iPhone Users From Enabling iCloud Private Relay in the U.S.

Chance Miller, 9to5Mac:

In the UK, carriers including T-Mobile, EE, and others have already started blocking Private Relay usage when connected to cellular data. 9to5Mac has also now confirmed that T-Mobile is extending this policy to the United States.

This means that T-Mobile and Sprint users in the United States can no longer use the privacy-preserving iCloud Private Relay feature when connected to cellular data. An error message in the Settings app explains:

Your cellular plan doesn’t support iCloud Private Relay. With Private Relay turned off, this network can monitor your internet activity, and your IP address is not hidden from known trackers or websites.

This is some serious bullshit. It has nothing to do with improving network quality and everything to do with T-Mobile selling your usage data. Curious how Apple will respond. I’d say switch carriers if you’re on T-Mobile, but if they get away with this, I fear Verizon and AT&T will follow.

[Update: T-Mobile in a statement to 9to5Mac: “Customers who chose plans and features with content filtering (e.g. parent controls) do not have access to the iCloud Private Relay to allow these services to work as designed. All other customers have no restrictions.” That makes sense, and is fair. If you actually want your carrier to filter your network traffic you have to let them see your network traffic.

But, responding to T-Mobile’s statement, Miller states: “However, many of the users we’ve heard from, and tested ourselves, do not have any such content filtering enabled. We’ve followed up with T-Mobile for additional clarification, but have not yet heard back.”]

Also at 9to5Mac today, Benjamin Mayo:

It seems carriers in Europe don’t like that idea too much. Via The Telegraph, operators including Vodafone, Telefonica and T-Mobile signed an open letter voicing their opposition to the rollout of the feature. In fact, some carriers are already blocking support as shown in screenshots from readers below.

The letter said that Private Relay cuts off networks and servers from accessing “vital network data and metadata” and will have “significant consequences in terms of undermining European digital sovereignty”. They say it will also impact “operator’s ability to efficiently manage telecommunication networks”.

It’s unclear why the companies are speaking out against Private Relay, when general VPN services have been widely available for years and do much of the same role. Perhaps it is the fact that Private Relay is so easily accessible that they expect a lot of people to use it; the feature is built into iOS 15 and available to any customer with a paid iCloud plan.

Let’s see if the EU’s vaunted regulators know which side of this dispute is actually working in favor of user privacy. There should be no debate which side is right here.

Monday, 10 January 2022