Apple first made private paging anonymization available on iPhone and iPad with iOS and iPadOS 15. With the release of macOS Monterey, Mac users can also use it. The feature isn’t turned on by default, so here’s how to enable it — and why you might want to.
What is private relay, and what does it do?
Private Relay is a new privacy feature for iCloud + customers. If you pay for iCloud space of 50 GB or higher, you will have access to this feature. At the time of writing in October 2021, it is in beta along with other features like Hide my email. Private Relay may not work as you would like in the early stage, but you can always turn it off if you run into problems.
The service anonymizes your web traffic in Safari using a two-stage system. The traffic is first passed to Apple’s servers, which encrypt and remove identifying information. The second step goes to a third-party service and assigns an anonymous IP address to your request. It’s designed in such a way that even Apple doesn’t know what you’re doing.
While Private Relay may look a lot like a VPN, it has some big differences. For example, Private Relay won’t mask the area you’re connecting from in the same way a VPN allows you to “tunnel” to a different part of the internet and it looks like you’re abroad.
But just like a VPN, using the service may slow down your internet traffic because your requests have to do a couple more points compared to a direct connection.
Related: What is a VPN, and why would I need one?
How to enable private relay
To turn on the private paging feature, launch System Preferences on your Mac and click on your Apple ID at the top.
In the window that appears, you will see a list of iCloud services. Next to Private Relay, click Options.
Now click on “Turn On Private Relay” to enable the feature.
Once you do that, you’ll also be able to choose to keep the IP address “public” or choose the more precise but less private “Use country and timezone” option.
Sometimes Private Relay will not work as advertised and Safari will return an error. You can always go back to System Preferences > Apple ID > Private Paging to disable it and look into it Using a VPN service instead.
Private relay is not perfect
Some users have discovered flaws in the way Private Relay handles requests It can cause the user’s real IP address to be leaked. We hope that the service will improve a lot once it is out of beta.
If you are using Private Relay on your Mac, you should consider enabling it on your iPhone as well. It’s one of the many new privacy improvement features Apple added with iOS 15.