According to 9to5Mac, T-Mobile appears to be preventing some iPhone users from setting iCloud Private Relay, a function that allows you to hide the websites you view from third parties.
In iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, Private Relay is currently in testing and isn’t enabled by default. To turn on your iPhone, you must go into the settings, which is where some T-Mobile customers have noticed an unusual message appear. The user is greeted with the message “Your cellular plan does not support iCloud Private Relay,” as displayed in the above tweet. This network can monitor your internet activities if Private Relay is disabled, and your IP address is not concealed from known trackers or websites.”
In a reply to that tweet, the user demonstrates what occurs when you click the “Learn More” button below the initial notification – Apple explains why T-Mobile may be restricting the feature there. “Access to Private Relay will be blocked by networks that require the capacity to audit traffic or undertake network-based filtering,” it says. “Your cellular operator may offer network-based services, such as Parental Controls, that require them to monitor your network traffic.”
Private Relay, which works similarly to a VPN, hides your web activity from any outside sources, including Apple and your carrier, and prevents anyone from identifying you or the websites you visit. It’s now available as part of an iCloud Plus membership.
iPhone users in Europe were the first to notice that access to the Private Relay feature had been disabled, according to 9to5Mac. T-Mobile, Vodafone, and Telefonica have signed an open letter criticizing the feature that was published in The Telegraph. Carriers say that Private Relay “would stifle others’ capacity to develop and compete in downstream digital marketplaces, as well as operators’ ability to run telecommunication networks efficiently.”
If you’re a T-Mobile user, the block on Private Relay may not be visible yet (it was still available on the T-Mobile iPhones we tested). It’s unclear whether this is on purpose, if it would effect all T-Mobile customers, or if it will only affect particular plans. The Verge reached out to T-Mobile and Apple for comment, but did not receive a response right away.