T-Mobile Blocks iCloud Private Relay for Some Users in the US [Update]

BY Chandraveer Mathur

Published 10 Jan 2022

T-Mobile Private Relay Block

The iCloud Private Relay feature in iOS 15 allows iPhone users to visit websites discreetly by concealing the browsing activity. Now, T-Mobile/Sprint has started blocking the feature in the US, alongside some European carriers.

T-Mobile is reportedly blocking access to Private Relay when the iPhone is connected to cellular data. When T-Mobile and Sprint users try to activate Private Relay on their iPhone while consuming cellular data, they are greeted with an error message in the Settings app that reads:

“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.”

The block doesn’t appear to be affecting all T-Mobile subscribers just yet because access to the feature is being revoked in a phased manner. At least temporarily, some of you might still be able to use Private Relay on a cellular data plan from the carrier.

T-Mobile was one of the carriers that expressed concern about the impact of the Private Relay feature in an open letter. The letter it signed along with European carriers explained that Private Relay denied the carriers access to “vital network data and metadata” and could affect the “operator’s ability to efficiently manage telecommunication networks.”

Our Take

Apple rolled out iCloud Private Relay as an opt-in beta feature bundled in iOS 15 in some countries. The company claims that the feature obscures your identity and the websites you visit from everyone in the chain, including Apple. However, T-Mobile’s actions demonstrate that carriers can control system-level features on iPhones, making them a powerful piece in the puzzle. This decision could lead the way for other American carriers such as AT&T and Verizon to follow suit. Despite its strong pro-privacy initiatives, Apple could also be compelled to reconsider the Private Relay implementation if an amicable resolution cannot be reached.

How do you think Apple and other American carriers will respond to this move? Tell us in the comments section below.

Update: According to T-Mobile’s internal documents seen by The T-Mo Report, only customers who use the carrier’s content filtering and blocking tools such as Web Guard would be unable to use iCloud Private Relay. Customers using the carrier’s Home Office Internet plans could also be impacted. The report claims that one could turn off these features and continue using Private Relay. The carrier reportedly doesn’t intend to block the feature for more subscribers.

[Via 9to5Mac]