Apple’s new iCloud Private Relay guide details what it doesn’t cover

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Apple’s new iCloud Private Relay privacy feature remains in beta on iOS 15, but the company has now released a primer on how it works, how to use it, and what it won’t do.

Originally announced as part of iOS 15, the feature was instead in public beta and issues were found. Apple has now released the “Introduction to iCloud Private Passthrough”, which describes how the feature “protects user privacy on the Internet”.

“Normally, when a user browses the web, basic information related to their web traffic, such as their IP address and DNS records, can be seen by network providers and the websites they visit,” indicates the document. “A user may then be targeted by unwanted advertisements and marketing campaigns, or have their data combined with additional data and sold to other companies.”

The guide goes on to detail how iCloud Private Relay sends “a user’s browsing requests through two separate internet relays so that no one entity can combine…browsing activity into detailed profile information.”

Apple’s document mostly reiterates the same detail it announced at WWDC 2021, and expanded on in a developer video. What this new post adds is the detail of when iCloud Private Relay will not work.

Users who have moved between Wi-Fi and cellular hotspots may have already seen repeated notifications about iCloud Private Passthrough being disabled and then re-enabled. Apple’s guide now explains why.

“Cellular services, such as multimedia messaging service (MMS), telephony services (XCAP), rights server access, connection traffic, and visual voicemail,” it says, ” do not use Private Relay. These services are always accessible directly.”

There are also intentional exceptions when a user is in an enterprise. “Most managed network settings used by enterprises take precedence over Private Relay,” Apple notes.

Likewise, if a user has a VPN or certain proxy configurations, internet traffic will not go through Private Relay.

Apple also says corporate networks can block access to Private Relay. If this happens, “users will be warned that they should either disable private relay for the network or choose another network.”

One issue the preview doesn’t address is how Apple’s new privacy feature won’t be available in all countries, including Russia.

About Raymond A. Bentley

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