Apple announced a number of privacy-focused updates at its annual developer conference on Monday. One program, called Private Relay, especially aroused the interest of Chinese users living under the country’s censorship system. Since the entire browsing history is encrypted, no one can track or intercept it.
As my colleague Roman Dillet explains:
When Private Relay is on, no one can track your browsing history. Not an Internet Service Provider Whoever stands in the middle of your request between your device and the server you are requesting for information. We̵7;ll have to wait a bit to learn more about how exactly it works.
The excitement did not last long. Apple told Reuters that Private Relay would not be available in China along with Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uganda and the Philippines.
TechCrunch could not immediately contact Apple for comment.
Virtual private networks, or VPNs, are a popular tool for users in China to bypass censorship tools. A “great firewall” accesses blocked or slowed web services, but VPNs do not necessarily protect user privacy. Because they simply send all traffic through the VPN provider’s servers instead of the user’s Internet service provider. Therefore, users rely primarily on VPN companies to protect their identity. Private Relay, on the other hand, does not allow Apple to view browsing activity.
In an interview with Fast Company, Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, explains why the new features may be superior to VPNs:
“We hope users believe that Apple is a reliable intermediary. But we don’t even want you to trust us. [because] We do not have this ability to provide you with your IP and the destination you are going to go along with. Unlike VPNs, so we want to provide many of the benefits that people were looking for when in the past they decided to use a VPN, but did not force the difficult and potentially dangerous trade-off in terms of trusting them to be. the only intermediary.”
It is unclear whether Private Relay will be excluded from system upgrades for users in China and other restricted countries, or will be blocked by ISPs in those regions. It remains to be seen if this feature will be available to Apple users in Hong Kong. This has seen an increase in online censorship in the past year.
Like many Western tech companies operating in China, Apple is stuck between hostility to Beijing and contempt for the values they hold at home. Apple has a history of falling under pressure from Beijing’s censorship. From migrating all user data in China to state-run cloud centers. Crackdown on Independent VPN Apps in China Speech Restriction on Chinese Podcasts to the removal of the RSS feed reader from the Chinese App Store.