iCloud+’s New Privacy Features Are Good, but Limiting

Decent protection, but expansion would be nice

Key Takeaways

  • Apple is introducing a new feature called iCloud+ this fall.
  • Among the new features iCloud+ includes are two key privacy options Apple fans can use to better protect their data.
  • Experts say the new features are helpful, but they could ultimately limit the protection they offer users.
iCloud on iPhone, iPad, and MacBook

Apple

iCloud+ will arrive this fall with new privacy features, like hiding your email and stopping ISPs from seeing what sites you visit, but experts say some users could find the features limiting.

If you own an Apple device, chances are you already have an iCloud subscription. If you don’t, then iCloud+ could be worth checking into. Alongside better support for HomeKit’s secure video cameras, the subscription also will include a system called Private Relay, which acts similarly to a virtual private network (VPN). This is one of the centerpieces of the subscription, but experts say it could end up being too limited to fully protect consumers.

"Private Relay is part of Apple’s continued effort to foster a privacy-oriented operating system, but there will still be some caveats," Daniel Markuson, a privacy expert with NordVPN, told Lifewire in an email. "Apple says Private Relay hides a user’s traffic from ISPs, advertisers, and even Apple itself. While there are similarities, when you turn on a VPN on your computer, smartphone, tablet, smart TV, or even router, it protects your data by putting everything you do online through a tunnel."

Limited Protection

While Private Relay works similarly to a VPN, Apple has noted it’s a feature that will only be available when users are browsing the web in Safari, the company’s default browser. While many use Safari on their Apple devices, there are also other popular browsers out there like Firefox, Google Chrome, Brave, and Opera.

There’s also the fact that whenever you use applications like Twitter, Facebook, or other social media apps, you’re always going to connect to the internet, too. So, while Private Relay will protect you in Safari, it won’t protect your online connection when doing other online activities on your phone.

Markuson says this makes Private Relay less powerful when compared to traditional VPNs, and could result in users still using a VPN on top of subscribing to iCloud+ for Private Relay. It’s interesting to see Apple only include Private Relay as an option for Safari, especially when you look at how Google is working to include support for VPN protocols, like WireGuard in Android 12

Padding the Subscription

Despite the somewhat limited nature Apple’s Private Relay may bring, it isn’t a bad feature, and Markuson says it could help push more users to take their cybersecurity more seriously.

"Although Apple does not appear to offer full-fledged VPN features, it will become the first step towards cybersecurity for many users who wouldn’t have considered taking action otherwise. I’d say that this will boost cybersecurity awareness in general, and this is a big win for the whole industry," he explained.

Outside of being able to hide your browsing data when using Safari, iCloud+ also lets users hide their email in Mail, Safari, and iCloud settings.

iCloud+ Hide My Email feature on iPhone

Apple

This feature is somewhat similar to one Apple already provides users who utilize the option to Sign in with Apple when logging into applications. Essentially, the feature will share a unique and random address when you have Hide My Email enabled. This email address will then forward to your personal address, allowing you to control who has direct access to your private address. It’s a nice feature users who respond to emails from their smartphone or iPad no doubt will appreciate.

Outside of these new privacy settings, Apple’s iCloud+ also will expand its support for HomeKit secure video, so if you use a smart security camera to keep an eye on your home, you’ll have additional options through iCloud+. Apple has plans for other additions, too, like the ability to decide who can access your data after your death.

While iCloud+’s new privacy features aren’t revolutionary, they still offer increased protection consumers will want to take advantage of, especially if you use Apple’s built-in browser for most of your internet browsing.

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