T-Mobile may have started blocking Apple’s iCloud Private Relay in the US


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Following carrier criticism and blocking of Apple’s iCloud Private Relay in the U.K., some reports suggest that T-Mobile may be starting to block the feature in the U.S. too.

Private Relay is a feature that acts similarly to a VPN, masking Safari traffic on an iPhone so that no one — including carriers or Apple itself — can see your browsing data. On Monday, users started reporting that T-Mobile blocked the feature on their devices.

Twitter user Jon Guidry, for example, took to the social media platform to ask T-Mobile why it was “keeping us from using” Private Relay. The user then shared an iPhone screenshot that read “Private Relay is turned off for your cellular plan.”

The report comes on the heels of a letter penned by U.K. carriers like T-Mobile, Vodafone, Telefonica, and others alleging that Apple’s Private Relay feature undermines “digital sovereignty” and prevents them from managing their networks.

“Private relay purports to enhance users’ privacy when connecting to and browsing the internet by encrypting and redirecting traffic … thereby cutting off other networks and servers from accessing vital network data and metadata, including those operators in charge of the connectivity,” the letter reads.

Several carriers also started blocking Private Relay in Europe.

The initial report from 9to5Mac on Monday claims that they were able to confirm that T-Mobile is also blocking Private Relay in the U.S. According to the site, the carrier is in the process of rolling out the block, so it may not have reached every customer yet.

AppleInsider was not able to duplicate the block in testing with 25 users who previously had the function off. The 25 we spoke to are not a representative sample of the entire user base, however, and our tests don’t preclude the claim of a gradual roll-out of the block.

It’s also possible that Monday’s iCloud issues may have erroneously contributed to the report of the block.

Furthermore, T-Mobile staff not authorized to speak on behalf of the company told us that they weren’t aware of any effort to actively block the feature.

Early beta releases of iOS 15 that included Private Relay didn’t function on T-Mobile’s network.

We’ve reached out officially to T-Mobile and Apple, and will update if we hear back.

The Private Relay feature is still currently in beta. When it’s ready for a public debut, however, the feature won’t be released in countries like Belarus, China, and Uganda. This is unrelated to carrier wants, but in response to local laws about redirecting internet traffic and the like.

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