Apple is a company that likes to present themselves as though they’re at the forefront of everyone’s technological concerns. Despite past issues with security vulnerability and data collection that drove privacy focused users away from Apple products, they’re not ready to stop trying.
Apple introduced their new Private Relay feature to crowds at their iOS 15 event, billing it as a browser based encryption tool. They worked hard to make Private Relay sound like a VPN without outright calling it a VPN, instead referring to it as a “VPN alternative.”
Private Relay is not a VPN, and technically, any browser or tool that is not a VPN would also be a VPN alternative. Apple worked very hard to choose the right words to give people the impression that their new tool was somehow better or more convenient than a VPN, when in reality, the feature isn’t capable of performing the majority of tasks that people rely on VPNs to perform.
What is Private Relay?
Private Relay is designed to send your traffic through two third party proxy services before you reach your destination. It’s worth noting that Apple has yet to mention who owns those servers, making it more difficult to discern if they’re trustworthy.
Private Relay uses simple encryption technology to limit what data collectors can see, including what Apple can see.This doesn’t completely block them from your data or your activity. It simply decreases their intake.
Private relay prevents Apple from directly learning every aspect of what you’re doing on the Safari browser. Apple still knows who you are and where you are. It partially hides your identity from third party servers, but gives websites and third party servers your location and information about the websites you’re attempting to access.
Apple has essentially equipped their technology with a tool that protects you from Apple.
Private Relay is an imperfect proxy system that has very little in common with a VPN. You can’t bypass region restrictions on content, it doesn’t provide encryption to your whole device, and it doesn’t offer traffic obfuscation.
Unlike stealth protocol VPNs, proxies give themselves away. Proxies are often blocked on public WiFi, most private networks, and college campuses. People who use iOS won’t be able to use Private Relay in the places where they actually need it most. This begs the question: is it really a privacy tool if it doesn’t work in situations where privacy is most necessary?
Don’t Count on Private Relay
If you were looking forward to Private Relay to solve all of your online privacy woes, you’re going to be sorely disappointed with what little they’re actually offering you. The only way to keep your information truly private on the internet is to use a stealth protocol VPN. It doesn’t matter what network you’re using or even what country you’re in. Stealth VPNs like TorGuard are the only tools able of providing you with complete and total anonymity.