Apple's Private Relay Roils Telecoms Worldwide
When Apple pushed iOS 15 out to more than a billion devices in September, the software update introduced the company's first VPN - like feature, iCloud Private Relay. The membership-only privacy tool makes it harder for anyone to access what you do online, by directing traffic from your device through multiple servers. But the device has gone backwards from mobile operators in Europe - and more recently, with T-Mobile in the US.
As Private Relay has been leaked over the past few months, a number of people have started complaining that their mobile operators seem to be restricting access to it. For many, it's impossible to turn the option on if your plan includes content filtering, such as parental controls. Meanwhile in Europe, mobile operators Vodafone, Telefonica, Orange, and T-Mobile have taken hold of the operation of Private Relay. In August 2022, according to a report by the Trustee telegraph, the companies complained that the feature would cut access to metadata and network information and recommended to regulators that it be banned.
“Private repeating will hinder others' innovation and competition in downstream digital markets and could adversely affect the ability of operators to manage telecommunications networks properly. effective, "company leaders wrote in a letter to European lawyers. states that there has been little evidence to suggest that Private Relay has caused problems for network operators.
Apple's Private Relay is not a VPN - which allows carriers for free - but it does have some similarities. The option, which is still in beta and only available to people who pay for iCloud +, aims to stop the network providers and websites you visit from viewing your IP address and DNS records. That makes it harder for companies to build profiles about you that incorporate your interests and location, theoretically helping to narrow down the ways you focus on -line.
To do this, Private Relay routes your web traffic through two relays, called nodes, when it leaves your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. Your traffic goes from Safari to the first relay, known as the "ingress proxy," owned by Apple. There are several different entry proxies around the world, and they are based in several places, Apple says in a white paper. This first relay will be able to see your IP address and the Wi-Fi or mobile network to which you are connected. However, Apple cannot see the name of the website you are trying to visit.
The second relay that your web traffic passes through is called a third-party partner other than Apple itself, known as "proxy egress". Although it can see the name of the website you are visiting, it does not know the IP address you are browsing. Instead it assigns you another IP address that is close to where you live or within the same country, depending on your Private Relay settings.
As a result, neither your IP address nor the details of what you are viewing online are known - but a standard VPN provider will process all of your data. Also unlike VPN, Apple's system does not allow you to change the geographic location of your device to avoid regional blocking of Netflix and other content.