T-Mobile is blocking some iPhone users from enabling iCloud Private Relay

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Following the news that several mobile carriers in Europe had begun blocking iCloud Private Relay (opens in new tab) on their customers iPhones, it now appears that some T-Mobile (opens in new tab) and Sprint customers in the US are having trouble accessing the feature as well.

First introduced by Apple with the release of iOS 15 (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab). The new feature works by first sending the web traffic of iPhone (opens in new tab) and Mac (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) services on their own device to protect their privacy further.

Carrier backlash

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 (opens in new tab). 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”.

We've also rounded up the best VPN (opens in new tab) services and best proxy (opens in new tab)

Via 9To5Mac (opens in new tab)

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.