Apple on Monday said that their new iCloud Private Relay feature designed to obscure a user’s web browsing behavior from internet service providers and advertisers will not be available in China due to regulatory reasons.
iCloud Private Relay is a service that lets you connect to virtually any network and browse with Safari in an even more secure and private way. It ensures that the traffic leaving your device is encrypted and uses two separate internet relays so no one can use your IP address, location, and browsing activity to create a detailed profile about you.
iCloud Private Relay first sends web traffic to a server maintained by Apple, where the IP address is stripped. Next, Apple sends the traffic to a second server maintained by a third-party operator who assigns the user a temporary IP address and sends the traffic onward to its destination website.
The use of an outside party in the second hop of the relay system is intentional, Apple told Reuters, to prevent even Apple from knowing both the user’s identity and what website the user is visiting. Apple will disclose which outside partners it will use in the system in the future, likely when the service comes online this fall.
iCloud+ combines everything users love about iCloud with new premium features, including Hide My Email, expanded HomeKit Secure Video support, and an innovative new internet privacy service, iCloud Private Relay, at no additional cost. Current iCloud subscribers will be upgraded to iCloud+ automatically this fall. All iCloud+ plans can be shared with people in the same Family Sharing group, so everyone can enjoy the new features, storage, and elevated experience that comes with the service.
iCloud+ plans: 50GB with one HomeKit Secure Video camera ($0.99/mo.), 200GB with up to five HomeKit Secure Video cameras ($2.99/mo.), and 2TB with an unlimited number of HomeKit Secure Video cameras ($9.99/mo.).
Apple’s decision to withhold the feature in China is the latest in a string of compromises the company has made on privacy in a country that accounts for nearly 15% of its revenue.
In 2018, Apple moved the digital keys used to lock Chinese users’ iCloud data, allowing authorities to work through domestic courts to gain access to the information.
China’s ruling Communist Party maintains a vast surveillance system to keep a close eye on how citizens use the country’s heavily controlled internet. Under President Xi Jinping, the space for dissent in China has narrowed, while censorship has expanded.
Apple said it also will not offer “private relay” in Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uganda and the Philippines.
Combined with Apple’s previous steps, the “private relay” feature “will effectively render IP addresses useless as a fingerprinting mechanism,” Charles Farina, head of innovation at digital marketing firm Adswerve, told Reuters. It will also prevent advertisers from using IP addresses to pinpoint a person’s location, he said.
MacDailyNews Take: Apple believes privacy is a fundamental human right.