In context: Despite some cellular providers not liking Apple’s idea of using a VPN-like private browsing feature called iCloud Private Relay, they claim they are not the ones responsible for it being blocked for some users. After looking into it Cupertino developers have quietly made changes to the iOS 15.3 beta and their support pages to clarify the possible causes for the blocking.
On Wednesday, Apple released iOS 15.3 to beta with a slight rewording of its iCloud Private Relay warning. Private Relay is an encryption feature for paid iCloud subscribers that hides their IP address and masks their browser activity so that even Apple can’t see it.
Earlier this month, some users were getting an error stating that their cellular provider was blocking the use of the feature.
“Private Relay is turned off for your cellular plan. Your cellular plan doesn’t support iCloud Private Relay. With iCloud Private Relay turned off, this network can monitor your internet activity, and your IP address is not hidden from known trackers or websites.”
Despite carriers like Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile, and Telefonica being vocally against Private Relay and lobbying for regulators to block it in Europe just days ago, cellular providers denied they were blocking the feature. In fact, T-Mobile told Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman that it had identified the error as coming from it being toggled off by default in iOS, not from T-Mobile blocking it.
T-Mobile: “Overnight our team identified that in the 15.2 iOS release, some device settings default to the feature being toggled off. We have shared this with Apple. This is not specific to T-Mobile. Again though, we have not broadly blocked iCloud Private”
— Mark Gurman (@markgurman) January 11, 2022
It shared this information with Apple, and as of Wednesday, the error message has been changed to the following:
“Private Relay is turned off for your cellular plan. Private Relay is either not supported by your cellular plan or has been turned off in Cellular Settings. With Private Relay turned off, this network can monitor your internet activity, and your IP address is not hidden from known trackers or websites.”
Apple’s support pages also indicate that the error could occur from one or more settings being disabled. The first is the main Private Relay (Beta) toggle in the iCloud menu. The second and third are found in Settings>Cellular>Cellular Data Options and Settings>Wi-Fi>More Info. Private Relay should be activated in these settings as well.
Even with all of the switches enabled, Apple says it is still possible to come across websites, networks, or services that are not compatible with Private Relay, which could trigger the error. Users can turn off private Relay temporarily to avoid the message in these situations. Users can also turn the feature off for individual networks.