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Apple Private Relay Feature: What is Apple’s Private Relay feature in Safari and why it is not a VPN | – Times of India

June 15, 2021

Apple announced new privacy features for its iCloud Plus subscription. These include Private Relay, browser-based encryption that allows users to browse with Safari more securely and privately. The feature was one of the many privacy protections Apple announced at WWDC — its annual software developer conference — on June 7. Apple has been making a push to cut down on the tracking of its users by advertisers and other third parties and this is yet another step in that direction.
What is Private Relay?
According to Apple, when browsing with Safari, Private Relay ensures that all traffic leaving a user’s device is encrypted, so no one between the user and the website they are visiting can access and read it. Even Apple on the user’s network provider can access any data. All the user’s requests are then sent through two separate internet relays. The first assigns the user an anonymous IP address that maps to their region but not their actual location. The second decrypts the web address they want to visit and forwards them to their destination. This separation of information protects the user’s privacy because no single entity can identify who a user is and which sites they visit.
How does Private Relay work?
“When someone accesses the internet, anyone on their local network can see the names of all of the websites they access based on inspecting DNS queries,” says Tommy Pauly of Apple’s Internet Technologies group, in a video for developers. He adds, “This information can be used to fingerprint a user and build a history of their activity over time.” In the video, Pauly describes how servers can see a user’s IP address when they access a site and says that those servers can “fingerprint user identity” across different sites. According to him, iCloud Private Relay aims to fix this by adding multiple secure proxies to help route user traffic and keep it private.
In layman terms, Private Relay first encrypts all your web traffic and sends it to a server maintained by Apple. There it is stripped of its IP address. From there, Apple sends the traffic to a second server maintained by a third-party operator who assigns the user a temporary IP address and sends the traffic onward to its destination website.
The use of a second server, as per Apple, is intentional “because no single entity can identify both who a user is and which sites they visit.”
Is Private Relay an alternative to VPN?
No Private Relay is not a VPN. According to The Verge, Apple itself denies that it is a VPN. “Apple is trying to distinguish the feature from traditional VPNs — and if you ask, Apple will tell you it’s not a VPN at all …,” says the report quoting Apple. However, Private Relay makes VPN-type privacy features more accessible.
How Private Relay compares to traditional VPNs?
First the differences
1. Traditional VPNs mask your public IP from start to finish. Apple Relay will not.
2. VPNs encrypt all outgoing data from your device. Apple Relay will not be doing this.
3. VPNs allow users to get over geo-location blocks and censorship to access media. Apple Relay is not for this. It is clearly designed to comply with geo-blocking.
4. As Apple specifies, Private Relay works only with Safari. This means that users are only protected if they “browse with Safari.”
What’s similar between VPN and Private Relay?
Both assign users a new IP address when they connect.
Private Relay is not free, it is part of iCloud Plus
The Private Relay is part of Apple iCloud Plus. It is available as part of the iCloud Plus subscription. In India, iCloud Plus subscription starts at Rs 75 per month for 50 GB of data.
How can users enable Private Relay?
Private Relay is built into iOS and macOS. It is not be enabled by default, users will have to do it manually.
Apple Private relay will not work in these countries
Apple has confirmed that the feature will not work in the following countries: China, Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uganda and the Philippines.

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