Following the news that several mobile carriers in Europe had begun blocking iCloud Private Relay on their customers iPhones, it now appears that some T-Mobile and Sprint customers in the US are having trouble accessing the feature as well.
First introduced by Apple with the release of iOS 15, iCloud Private Relay provides users with an additional layer of privacy by preventing others from viewing the websites they visit just like with a VPN. The new feature works by first sending the web traffic of iPhone and Mac users through a server maintained by Apple and then through a second server operated by a third-party.
While it initially seemed that T-Mobile was blocking the feature outright, in a statement to 9To5Mac a company spokesperson explained that Private Relay is only being blocked on customer accounts that use parental control software for content filtering. All other customers have no restrictions and can use the feature in the way that Apple intended.
Now it seems that iPhone users on T-Mobile have a choice to make: protect their privacy further using iCloud Private Relay or give up the ability to enable content filtering on the devices used by their children? If they choose to disable content filtering and use Private Relay themselves, they can always install their own parental control software on devices used by their children. At the same time, they can keep using T-Mobile's content filtering and install one of the best iPhone VPN services on their own device to protect their privacy further.
Although Private Relay can help further protect a user's privacy, it does limit the amount of usage data mobile carriers can collect on their customers.
In fact, T-Mobile along with several European carriers signed an open letter in which they voiced their concerns about the impact Private Relay could have on their businesses. In their letter, the carriers explained that the feature cuts off networks and servers from accessing “vital network data and metadata” and could impact “operator's ability to efficiently manage telecommunication networks”.
In the UK for instance, T-Mobile, E and other mobile carriers have already begun blocking Private Relay when customers are connected to cellular data. However, it's still unclear as to whether or not this also has deal with content filtering for UK T-Mobile users.
While Apple has yet to comment on this situation, the iPhone maker may be displeased by the fact that some mobile carriers are preventing one of its new iOS 15 features from working on their networks. We'll likely hear more once more users begin using Private Relay but in the meantime, you can test the feature out for yourself by going to your iPhone's Settings menu, heading to the iCloud tab and choosing “Private Relay”.