Apple will not release its VPN-like ‘private relay’ feature in China


Apple announced a string of privacy-related features during its WWDC presentation, and one them will be able to hide your web browsing activities from your internet service provider and anyone else. That feature called “private relay” is part of the suite of features included with a paid iCloud subscription now dubbed as iCloud+. If you’re in China, however, don’t expect it to encrypt your web activities for you. The tech giant told Reuters that it will be excluding China and a handful of other countries from private relay’s rollout due to regulatory restrictions.

As you know, the Chinese government keeps a close eye on how people in the country use the internet, making a large number of Western web services inaccessible within its borders. Reuters notes that this isn’t the first time the tech giant is making a compromise for one its largest markets. Back in 2018, it also moved the digital keys used to lock Chinese users’ iCloud data into servers within the country itself, so authorities can access them with permission from domestic courts.

Apple’s private relay feature works by sending traffic to a server maintained by the company first, stripping it of its IP address. That traffic is then forwarded to a second server operated by a third party that assigns it with a temporary IP address, which is what the destination website sees. While it could be useful in preventing bad actors and advertisers from tracking your activities, its implementation is pretty limited. In addition to being part of a paid package, it will also only work if you’re using Safari.

Still, you won’t even have the option of protecting yourself with it if you’re in the countries excluded from the rollout. Aside from China, private relay also won’t be available in Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uganda and the Philippines.

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