European carriers team up to block iCloud Private Relay

European carriers team up to block iCloud Private Relay on iPhone and iPad

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iCloud Private Relay
The feature undermines "European digital sovereignty," they say.
Image: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

European are joining forces in a bid to block iCloud Private Relay — a feature Apple introduced in iOS and iPadOS 15 to bolster its privacy protections. It seems some have already begun disabling it on cellular plans.

A group, which include Vodafone and T-Mobile, has signed an open letter that says Private Relay prevents them from obtaining “vital network data,” and will impact their ability to “efficiently manage telecommunication networks.”

iCloud Private Relay a problem for European carriers

iCloud Private Relay, which is currently in beta and must be activated manually on iPhone, iPad and Mac, is designed to hide your online browsing habits so that no one — not even Apple — can see the websites you visit inside Safari.

Concealing this information makes it more difficult for companies to track your interests and build profiles that can be used to serve you targeted ads. It seems to be working well, and some carriers aren’t happy about it.

The Telegraph reports that a group of European operators, including Vodafone, T-Mobile, and Telefonica — which owns brands like O2 in the U.K. — have signed an open letter that opposes Private Relay on iPhone and iPad.

The letter argues that Private Relay, much like a VPN, prevents carriers from collecting data that, they say, is vital to maintaining a stable and efficient network. They also say it undermines “European digital sovereignty.”

Some are already disabling Private Relay

Some carriers, including O2, have already lodged complaints with regulators. Others have begun disabling Private Relay when you are browsing the web using your cellular data plan, according to a message some users have seen.

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

It’s unclear why carriers are so upset if they have the ability to disable Private Relay on their own networks. And if that’s something that bothers you, you could always use a more traditional VPN to show them who’s boss.