Apple has come under scrutiny in the past for its blatant disregard for user privacy. They’re currently attempting to position themselves as privacy leaders with a new feature that slightly enhances some aspects of browsing privacy. The only problem with this feature is that it would be illegal in several major markets that Apple relies upon for a substantial amount of revenue.
The effort to become privacy conscious is driving Apple further into surveillance and censorship. There doesn’t seem to be a middle-ground solution for this dilemma, and it’s causing a contradictory identity crisis for everything the company is claiming they want to be.
Apple’s Private Relay Feature
Apple recently introduced a new feature for their Safari browser called Private Relay. Apple may have oversold its features, billing it as something similar to a VPN. Private Relay is a proxy system that limits the amount of information that companies (including Apple) are able to access about your browsing activity while partially concealing some personal data.
Private Relay is by no means a perfect privacy feature, but it’s certainly a step above browsing without any modifications. Even though it fails to deliver on many significant fronts and doesn’t serve many of the purposes people use a VPN to achieve, it’s a step closer to the right direction.
A major issue for global Apple users who are interested in Private Relay is their governments. Even though Private Relay’s features are minimalistic, they conceal enough data to directly violate censorship and surveillance laws in many countries.
Markets Where Private Relay Cannot Be Offered
China, the Philippines, Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, South Africa, and Uganda’s laws wouldn’t allow users access to the Private Relay feature. Their censorship and surveillance requirements prohibit the use of proxy systems that conceal user activity. This is a significant barrier for Private Relay’s release.
China is a particularly tough problem for Apple to contend with. China is home to more than a billion people, and the country accounts for nearly 15% of Apple’s total revenue. They can’t offer their new product to users in this country, potentially alienating a major consumer base and losing over eight billion dollars in the process.
This is a problem with only one solution that is consistent with Apple’s current messaging. That solution would be to lose those markets. If Apple were truly concerned with internet privacy, they would pull out of countries that don’t allow users to browse the free and open net without the government closely monitoring their every move.
This isn’t the solution that Apple chose. Apple decided to give in to the demands of these governments, setting a precedent that they’re willing to completely discard the value they claim to hold so closely if privacy gets in the way of profit.
Welcome to the Splinternet
Apple is separating the services they offer in order to appease governments that won’t allow for certain services, splintering the internet. They’re giving in to oppressive governments and showing that they’re willing to cooperate with policies that strip people of their rights.
This is a decision that many companies often make. Cosmetic and personal care companies may be “cruelty free” and “vegan” in most countries. If they sell in China, they’re required by law to conduct animal testing. They take a two-faced approach to avoid losing a significant payday.
Now that Apple is following in the footsteps of many other companies who don’t actually value their self proclaimed ethics above their outrageous revenue, privacy advocates and human rights organizations have turned their backs on the company.
This scenario raises an important point about privacy for every company that operates across borders. If Apple is willing to make these concessions to appease the Chinese government, certainly other companies would be willing to make concessions to appease oppressive governments.
Apple Doesn’t Value Privacy. VPNs Do
No one in any country can rely on Apple to keep them safe and respect their privacy on the internet. The only solution for complete privacy is a stealth protocol VPN service like TorGuard, which can be accessed from anywhere. Stealth VPN use can’t be detected by governments attempting to censor the internet or block websites that exist outside of their intranet. Don’t settle for the splinternet that Private Relay is trying to sell you.