Where’s the New ‘Private Relay’ from Apple?

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Photo: Alberto Garcia Guillen (Shutterstock)

techno.rentetan.com – At this year’s WWDC event, Apple shared a series of big disclosures, most of which quickly shaded by the new iOS 15 features parade. One of the biggest was the announcement of Private Relay, a new system for iCloud+ subscribers which promises that after upgrading to the forthcoming iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and MacOS Monteray SaFari will become even more private.

How it works is as follows: Once activated, Private Relay encrypts and sends your browsing data via two relays (or servers, essentially). The first change your IP address to a random IP based on your location to effectively hide the identity of your device from your ISP (and anyone else).

After the first relay is encrypted and the IP address is scratched, the data will then be transmitted to a second, separate relay that will decrypt and enable you to connect to a particular website.

How is the privacy of Apple comparable to a VPN?

You aren’t wrong, but there are some significant differences between the two if this sounds like a VPN to you. In the former case, Apple Relay, unlike a VPN, decodes your browsing data on a second server.

That said, the two-server setup of Apple Private Relay adds an additional privacy level that many VPNs do not have. Some—but not all—VPNs maintain records of who connects. Because everything is done on the same server, someone can use the logs of a VPN to track the activities of a user on their server. In theory, this means that private relay should not so much affect the browsing speeds. Apple Relay is all separating relays like the Tor anonymizes browsing data, but with fewer relays. No one, not even Apple, can track it once it has been sent on the second server, after the first server encrypts the data. This is how Apple at least says it works.

The way Apple Relay handles IP masking is another difference. Most VPNs enable you to select a proxy server area to be blocked – thus VPNs can let U.S. users view Netflix content exclusively in countries outside the U.S. Apple Relay masks your IP just like a VPN, but the fake address will match your current position, which means that regional geoblocs cannot be circumvented. There are also countries that have no private relay, particularly China and Saudi Arabia.

Finally, Apple’s Private Relay can only be used for iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and macOS Monteray users on safari. Any device and browser supported by VPNs works.

The company shows that private relay is not a VPN in credit to Apple. But without the use of a VPN specifically to get around geo-blocking, or without the use of non-Safari browsers, a paid VPN could be substituted for iCloud+ subscribers, at the very least once iOS/iPadOS 15 and macOS Monteray are rolling out later this year.