Are carriers actively blocking Apple’s iCloud Private Relay privacy service? Since the introduction of the function last year, there have been increasing reports of involuntary deactivation of the service from certain mobile phone providers – also from Germany. Mobile phone providers reject this and see the reason for the deactivation in an operating error by the user or an error in Apple’s operating system.
T-Mobile denies and refers to iOS 15 bug
T-Mobile US denied a general blockade of private relay to the US media on Tuesday evening. The network operator emphasized that iCloud Private Relay is only automatically deactivated for customers who have booked certain content filters, such as a porn block, in order to maintain the function of the filter. A “broad blockade” will not be made. According to T-Mobile, a bug in iOS 15.2 can lead to the relay service being switched off – even with other network operators. The bug was reported to Apple.
The trigger for the blockage reports is the warning: “Your mobile phone plan does not support the iCloud private relay”. However, this also appears if users switch off private relay for mobile phone connections themselves – or the function is deactivated by the bug mentioned.
iOS 15 hides IP address from trackers
Apple’s renaming of a setting causes confusion: Instead of “iCloud private relay”, the switch for activation and deactivation for individual networks from iOS 15.2 is called “Limit IP address tracking”. If this is switched off, iCloud private relay is also deactivated for the respective network. In the case of mobile phone networks, the wrong warning appears in this case, the mobile phone tariff does not support the service.
Private relay is intended to make it more difficult or impossible for third parties, including network operators, to track the surfing behavior of customers. Apple uses the “Oblivious DNS over HTTPS” (ODoH) protocol and two proxies that are operated by independent entities and can only view parts of the request.
At the same time, the IP address of the user is hidden from the service accessed, not only in the Safari browser, but also in the case of http traffic from apps. This causes assignment or billing problems with zero-rating offers such as Telekom StreamOn. Private Relay is a paid part of iCloud+ and is currently disabled by default as a “beta”. At the same time, Apple started with iOS 15 to hide the user’s IP address from known trackers. This function is free of charge and has only been able to be deactivated since iOS 15.2 using the now renamed switch.