Mobile operators found themselves locked in a power struggle with Apple after urging regulators to ban the iPhone maker’s encryption technology on the grounds that it would undermine “digital sovereignty.”
Some of Europe’s largest mobile operators want the European Commission to prevent Apple from using “private relay” on the grounds that it will also prevent them from managing their networks.
Apple’s Private Relay is designed to protect privacy by encrypting data to prevent the tech company and third parties from seeing where the user is browsing.
However, it has alarmed mobile operators by blocking access to data that supports their networks and underpins services to protect users from harmful online material.
A joint letter signed by Vodafone, Telefonica, Orange and T-Mobile said: “The private relay claims to improve the privacy of users when they connect and browse the Internet by encrypting and redirecting traffic … thus preventing other networks and servers to access network data and metadata, including operators in charge of connectivity.
“The establishment of the private relay will have important consequences in terms of calling into question European digital sovereignty.
“In addition, private relay will prevent others from innovating and competing in downstream digital markets and could have a negative impact on the ability of operators to effectively manage telecommunications networks.”
The letter sent in August and signed by the CEOs of the four operators said they expected Apple to be classified as a “digital guardian” under the EU’s Digital Markets Act, which has the potential to shut down services such as private relays.
However, they have called for action now, as the law is unlikely to come into force until next year at the earliest.