Apple’s upcoming Private Relay feature in iOS 15 and macOS Monterey is a privacy boon, but right now it won’t always work well with other VPNs. Here’s what you can do about it.
Apple is keen to say that while this prevents sites from tracking you and your location, it is not a VPN. At first glance, the difference is only that when a VPN conceals your location for privacy reasons, you can also spoof which country you appear to be in.
Thus, Private Relay will not allow you to see your US Netflix account when traveling to Europe, for example. Sites may never know where you are, but they know exactly the right region so they can provide the correct geo-locked service.
None of that would matter, except sometimes you want to use a full VPN – and sometimes businesses require their staff to use one.
Currently, Private Relay is only available to paid iCloud users who are on the beta of the upcoming iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey. By the time the final version of the feature becomes available around September, Private Relay may have fixed the issue.
And VPN providers should have updated to deal with Private Relay – if they even need to update anything.
What is supposed to happen
Developers who provide applications like VPNs take your network requests and anonymize or modify them as they go through their own servers. If developers are already using Apple’s networking APIs – URLSession and NWConnection – they don’t have to change anything.
Such applications use what is called a network extension, and when data is sent through that, and through these APIs, Private Relay turns off to allow it. The idea is that the user made a positive choice to activate a VPN, so Apple takes a step back.
However, during the beta process we saw some VPNs refuse to run because they claim you already have one.
It is not known how widespread this is. Just by chance what tests Appleinsider did, the problem occurred on the Mac. And the answer on Mac and iOS is to temporarily deactivate Private Relay.
How to turn off Private Relay on macOS Monterey
- Open System Preferences
- Click on Apple ID at the top of the screen
- To choose iCloud
- Now check to turn Private relay disabled
How to turn off Private Relay on iOS
- Open Settings
- Tap your name at the top of the screen
- To choose iCloud
- Now press Private relay
- Press to deactivate Private relay
- Click on Deactivate private relay to confirm
- Click on Okay
Note that this setting is not available if you are only using the free iCloud storage that came with your Apple ID. If you’re currently paying something for iCloud, you’ll see it in the beta of iOS 15.
At the latest during the final public version of iOS 15, your paid iCloud account will be renamed to iCloud + and you will therefore be able to see this title in the settings.
Other private relay options
Clearly, to reactivate Private Relay, just follow the same steps and take the opposite decision at the end. However, there is a little more you can do.
On Mac and iOS, in the section where you can turn private relay on or off, there is currently an additional section titled IP address location.
There are two choices here, the default being Maintain general location. The alternative is Use country and time zone.
Both have to do with how much Private Relay hides from you, and it’s possible that for most users, there isn’t a gigantic difference.
With Maintain general location selected, a site you access will not get your real IP address, your real location, but it will be close enough. Apple apparently hasn’t said exactly what close enough means yet, but it’s a safe bet you’ll be limited to the nearest city or town.
With Use country and time zone, you will not be stuck in a city, it will be that much wider.
This is what will make the difference. If you’re in the United States on Eastern Time, for example, you could be anywhere from Florida to Maine. Different states may have different rules for who can access their systems, for example.
It’s not very likely because state departments know people are traveling. And it’s when you’re away from home that you might need to do something about their systems the most.
But it could happen and this is probably the reason why Apple uses by default Use country and time zone.
Still in beta
Private Relay is not finished and will not be until its final release. Right now, in the beta process, you can see how Apple is changing and even improving the way it describes private relay in settings.
Where it makes it clearer what the benefits are and what can be your choices, you can be sure that its very features are being worked on.
Resist anyway. Cool new features are worthless if a beta breaks your iPhone or Mac.
As hard as it may be to resist, September is not that far away. Honest.
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