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Apple's Privacy Relay is NOT a VPN

Summary

Apple's New Privacy Relay is Not a VPN rather it's as far as I understand a Proxy with No Overcoming of Geo Blocks and only encrypts the DNS traffic.

 

Quotes

Quote

APPLE PRIVATE RELAY VS. A STANDARD VPN

  VPN Private Relay
Your public IP (where you are and who you are) is encrypted, start to finish Yes No
Assigns you a new IP when you connect Yes Yes
All outgoing data from your device is encrypted Yes No
You can overcome geo-location blocks and censorship to access media Yes No
Your traffic blends in with everyone else's via obfuscation Yes No

 

My thoughts

 I really hoped that this might be a VPN but no this isn't. It also isn't available in some region. I would also like to know if it is really effective at all.

 

Sources

 No, Apple's Private Relay is not a VPN - CNET

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5 hours ago, linux fanboy said:

I would also like to know if it is really effective at all.

Depends on the user case, is it effective at stoping trackers from using your IP address to track over you?

Yes for 2 reasons:
 

1) Multiple users traffic will be a assigned to the same IP (from the perspective of the server you at talking to)
2) New TCP connection you make will end up on different IPs there is not stable IP binding (long term over days of usage)


Will it let you do other things that it never promised, things that are all to do with VPNs like changing regions etc? NO, it is not a VPN.

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If it were a VPN, Apple would have put that in the keynote. It’s not, so it’s really not a big surprise that it can’t spoof your location since it was never intended to. It’s effectively free to anyone with iCloud storage so it’s pretty cool imo. 

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It's more like an anonymous proxy. It just hides the IP, but doesn't encrypt or otherwise change the requests.

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its slow thats what it is. Probably because dev preview, only good if you're in the US. 

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Not surprising really.

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13 hours ago, RejZoR said:

It's more like an anonymous proxy. It just hides the IP, but doesn't encrypt or otherwise change the requests.

Apple's Private Relay does encrypt the traffic.

 

 

I feel like a lot of people, including the person who wrote this article, doesn't really understand what Private Relay is or even what a VPN is. That's why she brings up irrelevant stuff like "A VPN supports split tunneling while this doesn't" as some kind of drawback. Since this only seems to work in the browser, you kind of do have a type of split tunneling built in. But you might not want split tunneling. Split tunneling might be bad, depending on what you want.

To be honest though, I am not entirely sure how Private Relay works either since there isn't much info out there about it. I think we should wait and look at how it works before we start comparing it against things like VPNs and decided which is "the best", if there is even a clear winner (my guess is that both will have some pros and cons).

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18 hours ago, RejZoR said:

It's more like an anonymous proxy. It just hides the IP, but doesn't encrypt or otherwise change the requests.

It does encrypt but it does not hide the fact that it has encrypted, it does not try to make the traffic look like regular HTTPs traffic, so if an ISP (or gov) did not want you to do this they could easily detect it and block it but they could not inspect it.

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Was it ever marketed as a VPN? 

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7 minutes ago, Arika S said:

Was it ever marketed as a VPN? 

No. It was marketed as a privacy function of limited scope whose purpose is to encrypt traffic and hide real IP. It only works within iCloud Mail.

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21 minutes ago, RejZoR said:

It only works within iCloud Mail.

No it doesn't.

You're probably getting it partially mixed up with "private email relay", which is an iCloud mail feature where it sets up an alias for your email. That was always encrypted, and "hid your IP" because that's simply how email works. Or maybe you're getting it confused with the new Apple email client's function that does things like block tracking pixels.

This is iCloud Private Relay. Very similar name, but works in a completely different way. Private Relay is for hiding your IP and encrypting your traffic when you browse the web. It is not limited to emails.

 

Here is where they announced Private Relay:

 

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My initial understand that this was closer to a TOR type onion network browser thing, though much fewer hops etc.

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I'll have to watch that again I guess...

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2 hours ago, Video Beagle said:

My initial understand that this was closer to a TOR type onion network browser thing, though much fewer hops etc.

That's what I've gathered too, but there is so little detail about it I am not sure.

It seems like it's quite similar to Tor, except the entry node is always Apple, and the exit node is always the unnamed third party (which so far seems to be Cloudflare).

 

All this focus on whether or not it is a "VPN" is kind of irrelevant if you ask me. It's clearly not a VPN because it doesn't build a VPN tunnel or modify the routing or behave anything like a VPN on the protocol level. But you seem to get the same benefits as what some people use a VPN for (confidentiality) so why does it matter what protocol it uses?

Tor isn't a VPN either, but it provides dramatically higher privacy than using some VPN provider does. A VPN is just one way of achieving some desired outcome, but it's not the only one and it's not necessarily the best in every situation.

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Private Relay is not, strictly speaking, a VPN. We're still waiting on details on how the service works, but confusing it for a VPN may prove dangerous to those who rely on them for personal safety, and ineffective for those seeking ways around government censorship. 

A classic CNET article. They don't know how something works but they are going to go ahead and give you commentary that would require that information to be accurate.

 

-kp

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