iCloud Private Relay is new Privacy component for iOS devices. It’s in beta but you can try it now on any iOS device running iOS 15.
Since Apple released iOS 15, you might have noticed your iCloud account has changed. Apple has upgraded all paid iCloud accounts to iCloud+. The upgrade has added several new features on top of its existing iCloud storage and cloud features. iCloud+ Private Relay is the most interesting among these new features. iCloud Private Relay encrypts your web browsing traffic and sends through a relay, hiding your exact location, IP address and the contents of your browser traffic.
Although not quite a VPN, it does offer the obvious benefits of a VPN to millions of Apple users who would not consider signing up for one.
With Private Relay enabled, all of your browsing activity in Safari will be routed through two internet ‘hops’ or relays. This encrypts your browsing data and sends to an Apple proxy server, meaning the DNS request (What connects websites domain names with IP addresses on the web) and your iPhone or iPad ‘s IP address are separated. Your IP address gets retained by Apple, while your request to open a web site is passed on to a “trusted partner” that has the decryption key that sends a fake IP address and an approximate location if requested.
Apple hasn’t mentioned who its partners are but Akami, Cloudflare and Fastly have been suggested as the most likely.
This process means Apple knows your IP address but not the websites that your visiting and the trusted partner knows the sites your visiting but not your IP address (This means they can’t see who you are or where you are). Neither party is able to piece together a complete picture of who or where you are.
Without a VPN or iCloud Private Relay a website you’re visiting can normally see your IP address and DNS request, so it’s quite easy to build a detailed profile of exactly who you are, your location and what you are looking at online. Add web cookies to this and its quite easy for you online activity to be tracked, profiled, traced and then sold on to advertisers and other entities.
iCloud Private Relay IP addresses will still offer a rough approximation to your general location, but not enough to identify you. It will however allow sites that use your IP address to provide News, Weather or other location based sites to still work. Apple even offer to use a broader IP address, but this will stop these wanted location base sites to give inaccurate information.
Apple will not allow you to choose an IP address or location like a full VPN service would so you cannot use the service to access geographical locked content such as Netflix or other online content.
If you would like to switch on iCloud+ Private relay, go to the Settings app on your iOS device and tap your Apple ID name at the top. Go to iCloud and select Private Relay (Beta), now just swipe the toggle green to switch it on. You will also have the option of choosing between two IP address locations. General, will keep your IP address generally near your location to allow websites to give local content or you can select country and time zone for more privacy.