Apple’s iCloud Private Relay feature is designed to prevent anyone from snooping on what you’re doing on the internet, but a number of European cellular carriers want it banned. They claim that iCloud Private Relay prevents them from properly managing their networks.
That’s according to a Telegraph report, with carriers saying that the feature has “significant consequences in terms of undermining European digital sovereignty.” Quite what that actually means isn’t immediately obvious.
Here’s what iCloud Private Relay actually is, according to our guide:
iCloud Private Relay can easily be mistaken for a Virtual Private Network (VPN), but in reality, it’s much more limited than what a VPN service provides. iCloud Private Relay does hide your IP address like a VPN, but it doesn’t fully spoof your location. In other words, you can’t use iCloud Private Relay to fool Netflix into thinking you’re in a different country. What it’s designed to do, though, is encrypt all your connections not using HTTPS, hide your real IP address, and prevent anyone — even Apple — from knowing both who you are and where you’re connecting to on the web. In short, Private Relay makes browsing the web in Safari on your iPhone and iPad a little more secure.
But despite being a VPN, European carriers including Vodafone, Telefonica, Orange, and T-Mobile say that the feature “will impair others to innovate and compete in downstream digital markets and may negatively impact operators’ ability to efficiently manage telecommunication networks.”
A joint letter signed by Vodafone, Telefonica, Orange and T-Mobile said: “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.
While it’s true that VPN services also have the same impact, it’s likely the carriers are concerned about iCloud Private Relay because of its potential reach. While still listed by Apple as a beta, the company will surely enable it by default at some point in the future — potentially locking carriers out of the data they say they need across their entire iPhone-using customer base.
Whether the carriers are telling the whole truth here is something else that isn’t clear. By locking carriers out, Apple also potentially impedes their ability to sell data-shaping services.
iCloud Private Relay is just one of Apple’s privacy-based features and with privacy being one of the best iPhone selling points it could be a hard sell for carriers when they try and argue against it.