tech

Apple's new 'private relay' feature will not be available in China

8 Comments
By Stephen Nellis and Paresh Dave

Apple Inc on Monday said a new "private relay" feature designed to obscure a user's web browsing behavior from internet service providers and advertisers will not be available in China for regulatory reasons.

The feature was one of a number of privacy protections Apple announced at its annual software developer conference on Monday, the latest in a years-long effort by the company to cut down on the tracking of its users by advertisers and other third parties.

Apple's decision to withhold the feature in China is the latest in a string of compromises the company has made on privacy in a country that accounts for nearly 15% of its revenue.

In 2018, Apple moved the digital keys used to lock Chinese users' iCloud data, allowing authorities to work through domestic courts to gain access to the information.

China's ruling Communist Party maintains a vast surveillance system to keep a close eye on how citizens use the country's heavily controlled internet. Under President Xi Jinping, the space for dissent in China has narrowed, while censorship has expanded.

Apple's "private relay" feature first sends web traffic to a server maintained by Apple, where it is stripped of a piece of information called an IP address. From there, Apple sends the traffic to a second server maintained by a third-party operator who assigns the user a temporary IP address and sends the traffic onward to its destination website.

The use of an outside party in the second hop of the relay system is intentional, Apple said, to prevent even Apple from knowing both the user's identity and what website the user is visiting.

Apple said it also will not offer "private relay" in Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uganda and the Philippines.

Apple has not yet disclosed which outside partners it will use in the system but said it plans to name them in the future. The feature likely will not become available to the public until later this year.

IP addresses can be used to track users in a variety of ways, including as a key ingredient in "fingerprinting," a practice in which advertisers string together disparate data to deduce a user's identity. Both Apple and Alphabet Inc's Google prohibit this.

Combined with Apple's previous steps, the "private relay" feature "will effectively render IP addresses useless as a fingerprinting mechanism," Charles Farina, head of innovation at digital marketing firm Adswerve, told Reuters.

It will also prevent advertisers from using IP addresses to pinpoint a person's location, he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2021.

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

8 Comments
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In a move that surprises nobody, Apple produce something that genuinely increases privacy for citizens, swiftly blocked by a government that denies freedom for its people.

I can't see how that can put a positive spin on this one, but I know they'll try.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Who is they?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

So apple folded. Not surprised china uses this people’s info for nefarious purposes, they would not give that up.

Facebook and other co. Will use this as excuse to get back at apple.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

WaddoToday  08:29 am JST

Who is they?

Apple users, the people funding a company that is assisting the CCP to maintain total control over internet use in China. What's good for you is bad for them, apparently.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Not surprised at all... in fact, I think most people were expecting this move by Apple considering that China is one of the biggest market and profit maker for Apple

0 ( +1 / -1 )

So the way to know if something actually protects the privacy of the people using it is that it will not be available in China, so much for Apple's commitment to privacy.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This is nothing new..Apple is basically using a VPN. I have been using a VPN since they existed. I actually made/manage my own. A VPN with adblock gets you zero ads on any device you use, and also keeps everything you do private. Just don't log into Google Chrome because google can still track you.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

OlympicSupport is spot on. It's just an OS-specific VPN. There has been a basic one built into the Opera browser for some time.

Way back when, Apple would monitor the small programs produced as shareware for the Mac OS. If anything was popular, they would roll the features into the next version of their OS. VPNs are popular so they are rolling the feature into their OS, taking a chunk of business away from the 3rd party VPN operators.

There are far more advanced ways of doing this via distributed networking, that cannot be blocked by dictatorships. You can even crowd-source VPN functionality by bouncing data off third party sites using a bit of code.

What comes next in tech is going to make GAFA look like a Model T Ford.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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