Mobile UK, a trade organisation of British mobile network carriers, comprising EE, Virgin Media O2, Three, and Vodafone, has highlighted concerns about the effect of iCloud Private Relay on user experience, internet safety, and competition in response to the CMA’s Interim Report on mobile ecosystems.
ICloud Private Relay, an iOS 15 feature, guarantees that all communication leaving a device is encrypted using two distinct internet relays, so that organisations cannot utilise personal information like IP address, location, and browsing history to develop a thorough profile about customers.
It is claimed by Mobile UK after a formal complaint from Microsoft that Private Relay may have undesirable side effects for users: When it comes to Apple consumers, “Private Relay impacts them in more ways than merely the degree of privacy they choose.” To provide just one example, “Apple customers have reported having a poorer surfing experience while utilising Private Relay.” In theory, this may lead to a shift away from Safari to programmes that are downloaded through the App Store, where Apple stands to profit.
Safari and other unencrypted programmes are shielded from network providers through Private Relay. Mobile UK claims that Private Relay hinders service providers’ awareness of “demand patterns across mobile networks” by prohibiting them from viewing this traffic. As a result, they are unable to adequately diagnose consumer difficulties.
According to reports, “content filtering, malware, anti-fraud and phishing security supplied by network providers” may be compromised by Private Relay. According to Mobile UK, “terrorism, major organised crime, child sexual abuse and exploitation” are all at risk because Private Relay “impairs the insights available under the Government’s investigatory authorities.”
By “leveraging its immense market strength into many other parts of the market, Apple is able to further consolidate its position,” Private Relay is said to do. Providers will be unable to utilise traffic data to construct their own rival mobile browsers and other services that directly compete with Apple because of the Private Relay feature, Mobile UK claims.
This means that network providers cannot use Safari traffic data to build goods and services that compete directly with Apple. Network providers may no longer have access to a user’s content watching habits in order to generate new material that is in direct competition with Apple TV’s offerings. Additionally, a network provider may no longer be allowed to share customer information with third parties that compete with Apple Search Ads for digital advertising services. ..
UK Internet service providers (ISPs) are being “actively undercut” by Private Relay since Apple is practically becoming an ISP itself, according to Mobile UK.
In order to resolve the internet connection, Apple ends the function of the mobile and fixed connectivity provider by acting as the ISP itself. When it comes to connecting users to Apple’s cloud services, the responsibility of the mobile and fixed connection provider is limited to providing transportation.
According to Mobile UK, Apple “may therefore utilise its dominance in the device and operating system to build its iCloud + user bases and improve its position as an ISP.”
In addition, the trade organisation said that Private Relay “accesses the internet in a way controlled by Apple,” directing customers to more Apple services. In order to “favour its own proprietary apps and services, at the cost of other suppliers,” Apple has implemented a private relay.
Additionally, Mobile UK said that Private Relay “has an impact on competition in mobile browsers,” stressing that “competitive browsers cannot distinguish themselves readily” because of Apple’s WebKit browser engine constraint. “The ability of competing browser to separate themselves from Safari will still be constrained by the conditions of Apple’s browser engine,” the group says, arguing that consumers cannot “move to an alternate browser.”
The trade organisation concludes that Private Relay has to be controlled beyond its surface existence as a privacy provider.
A major worry for Mobile UK is the lack of customer education and understanding about the full consequences of using Private Relay services.
As a result, the effect of Private Relay can’t be evaluated exclusively via a privacy lens.
It is Mobile UK’s hope that the CMA would enact ‘an appropriate remedy that restricts the usage of Private Relay, or at the very least, prohibit Apple from making Private Relay a default-on service.’ “Private relay is now default-off, but it is already being utilised by a considerable fraction of Apple users in the UK, despite being in beta mode.”
Private Relay should not be offered as a service option or deployed by default. As an app, it may compete with comparable services, such as VPNs, that provide similar features. If Apple plans to adopt Private Relay, it should tell relevant third parties ahead of time so that they can educate their consumers of the potential changes. Network providers would have been able to tell their customers about how their security solutions would alter, as well as notify the government on how Private Relay impacts their ability to get insight from network traffic data, had they been given early notice of its introduction.
See Mobile UK’s entire response to the CMA for additional details. Other countries, including the European Union, are wary of using iCloud Private Relay because of concerns that it violates EU “digital sovereignty.”
Apple’s lengthy answer to the CMA earlier this week was an aggressive defence of the company’s ecosystem. Regulators had “put the advantages of Apple’s ecosystem aside without reasoned foundation, either disregarding them totally or rejecting them on the basis of nothing but guesswork,” according to the complaint. A handful of multi-billion dollar corporations, “all trying to make major modifications to the iPhone for their own commercial advantage, without independent verification,” were the source of the CMA’s Interim Report, according to Apple’s claim.