Private Relay is designed so that no one, not even Apple, can find out what our browsing habits are or what we are visiting. Excellent privacy protection that is not appreciated by European operators, including Telefonica, Vodafone or T-Mobile, who have signed a letter against this feature and calling for its ban.

When Private Relay’s confidentiality conflicts with other interests

With the arrival of iOS 15, Apple includes Private Relay, currently in beta and disabled by default. Private Relay runs our navigation through two servers, one from Apple and the other from a trusted partner so that the first knows who we are, but not where we are going and the second where we are going, but not. who we are. The net result of this is that intermediaries on our network, both local and the operator’s, cannot see what domains we are connecting to or what DNS queries we are making.

As The Telegraph reports, several European operators have sent an alert to the European Commission indicating that Private Relay has “important consequences in terms of attacking European digital sovereignty”. According to The Telegraph, operators want to ban the encryption technology behind Private Relay:

Mobile operators have been caught in a power struggle with Apple after urging regulators to ban the iPhone maker’s encryption technology for claiming it would undermine ‘digital sovereignty. “Some of the largest mobile operators in Europe want the European Commission to prevent Apple from using Private Relay. On the grounds that it will also prevent them from managing their networks.”

It is striking that operators are rising up against Private Relay when VPN services, available for years, perform exactly the same function. It’s reasonable to think that the ease of access to Private Relay makes us all want to protect our privacy, which means a lot more traffic that operators only lose visibility with the use of VPN tools.

Operators are standing up against Private Relay as traditional VPNs have offered a very similar service for years.

Without wishing to draw any conclusions or point directly, it is common knowledge that operators exchange with the data they obtain from navigation. Both the data of the connections established from a certain IP and the DNS queries to its own servers, which are usually configured by default in routers.

Many operators then offer the possibility to withdraw their consent to the use of this data for commercial purposes and to resell it, but few users are aware of the process or are able to implement it. In this sense, Private Relay, really represents a definitive means of preventing our operators from knowing what services we are using and what we are connecting to. As we started off by saying, it seems that privacy has collided with other interests.