Apple Private Relay vs. VPN: What You Need to Know

Protecting users' IP addresses should be implemented by default by any online company, especially those with millions of users on a daily basis. This will limit attacks and ultimately make the internet a safer place for everyone. Fortunately, more and more online companies are now observing privacy and security by default although there are some caveats to consider along the way.

Apple Private Relay

Apple Private Relay is one of the services that offers additional levels of security for their users. This service basically shields the user from IP address tracking and monitoring by encrypting its connection through a relay. Think of it as a shield that masks the users' personal information which prevents it from tracking. This feature can be activated in an instant with little to no configuration needed.

Because online connectivity still requires an IP address, Private Relay will shield the users' IP address with a different IP address – making it nearly impossible for any attack related to IP addresses.

While it sounds impressive, there are some limitations to this feature and among them is the fact that it's not free. Apple users have to be subscribed to iCloud+ to use this feature.

Another limitation to this feature is its coverage. Private Relay is only limited to websites with HTTP addresses. This limitation actually makes sense since websites with HTTPS are already encrypted. This type of protection is also limited only on their Safari Browser.

Are Apple Private Relay & VPN The Same?

Apple Private Relay's functionality of shielding your IP address from attacks and tracking is the same with VPN or Virtual Private Network. However, there are key features in VPN that makes it a totally different type of service compared to Apple Private Relay.

VPN's main functionality will always be security. However, it has become something even more because of the services it offers. Most, if not all VPN providers offer location-based service to their users – this means users can customize their private network to their location of their choosing. For example, users are located in Japan but they can shield their location by activating a VPN that tells websites and apps that they are accessing their service from London.

The location based feature shields their actual location as well as the possibility to access blocked online services based on their location. A good example is the access of streaming services and online promos. Apple Private Relay, because it's only limited to Safari and HTTP browsing, will not be able to provide this type of service.

An Extra Layer of Security at a Cost

Another advantage of VPN over Apple Private Relay is its ability to add another layer of security in EVERY online transaction on the device itself. Since it's a software or an app, it can provide another layer of security even with already encrypted applications, software and websites.

While it sounds like an amazing feature, VPNs also come with a downside. Because it will shield your IP address by using another private network for the transaction, it could slow down internet speed. Add to the fact that it will be a persistent process, a relatively old computer or a mobile device could slow down.

It's also important to consider that not all VPNs are the same. There are companies that offer free VPN services but some could actually pose a security threat as it might gather user information. There are VPN services that do not gather user information as well as no cap on their internet speed but they are often accessed through paid service.

Using Apple Private Relay is a good option when you already have iCloud+ but a paid VPN could offer more than just security and privacy as it provides location based private networks for increased access of services worldwide.

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