Among this year’s collection of new privacy features in iOS 15 came iCloud Private Relay, Apple’s answer to a privacy-protecting VPN service. Like most of the services that Apple builds into iOS 15, it’s an approachable and easy solution for the average person to use. However, it also comes with a few drawbacks that you should be aware of.
In short, iCloud Private Relay works by routing all of your traffic through not one but two intermediate servers that exist at arms-length from each other. It’s a unique approach that’s never been taken before, as it creates a system where no single entity knows both who you are and where you’re going.
This is done through multiple layers of encryption, whereby the first servers that process your outbound traffic can’t read its destination. These servers strip out your personal information before passing your requests onto the tier of servers — ones that aren’t controlled by Apple — which can then unencrypt the headers that show where that traffic is destined to end up, so they can pass it on.
As a result, the sites you visit only see traffic coming from a generic IP address that can’t be traced back to you personally. This outbound address will always be located in your home country and time zone, but if you prefer, you can have iCloud Private Relay use an address in your general region.
This latter option is handy if you want websites to be able to provide more accuracy for things like local news and weather. Still, it’s generic enough that sites will only know what city you’re coming from, rather than your specific neighbourhood.
More importantly, since thousands of people will be using these IP addresses, there’s no way for tracking networks to use them as a form of persistent identity to follow your activity around the web.
In a nutshell, those are the positive points about iCloud Private Relay, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few downsides as well. Read on for seven reasons why you may want to avoid turning on iCloud Private Relay.