Apple Introduces VPN-like Feature In The New iCloud+

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iPhone 6 on a wooden table
iPhone 6 on a wooden table. Image credit: cincila/Bigstock.com

In the 2021 Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple introduced a new premium iCloud tier called iCloud+, and one of the most interesting features it offers is Private Relay. Private Relay wasn’t officially called a VPN, but it operates similar to one.

If you’re browsing the Internet in Safari, the feature will route your traffic through two different servers to conceal your real IP address, making it harder to identify you (unless you’re logged in to the website of course).

Conventional VPNs route all of your phone’s traffic (not just from web browsing, but all apps) through other servers to conceal your real IP address. Your real IP address is unique and (mostly) permanent, so many companies use it to track your activity across other apps and websites.

This invasive tracking activity makes Private Relay and VPNs useful privacy-protecting tools. This is especially useful if you decide to upgrade your iCloud plan and can just switch it on due to Apple’s (usually) seamless integration of features.

Unfortunately, the Private Relay feature is not available in China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or Uganda — all of which have a brutal record of human rights abuse in recent years. These countries want to track dissent and curb it as soon as possible.

Blocking Sideloading Gives Dictatorships And Oppressive Regimes Immense Power

If you are in one of those countries: If you want to use a VPN that actually protects you from those oppressive regimes, you’ll have to buy an Android phone because Apple removed unapproved VPNs from its app store, and you’re not allowed to sideload apps on iPhones.

This sideloading restriction is a key enabler of censorship and surveillance because you can only install apps from the app store. People have been able to get around oppressive restrictions and invasive tracking because they are able to sideload and aren’t stuck with what Apple or their local dictatorship decides they can install.