iCloud Private Relay: What It Is and How to Use It

Protect your online privacy with this feature

What to Know

  • Turn on iCloud Private Relay by going to Settings > your name > iCloud > Private Relay > move the slider to on/green.
  • iCloud Private Relay masks your IP address and browsing activity by routing your internet traffic through two servers.
  • Private Relay requires iOS 15 and higher and a paid iCloud+ account.

Apple's iCloud Private Relay is part of the company's ongoing push to enhance user privacy and security and prevent its users from being tracked by advertisers and websites. Learn all about iCloud Private Relay—how it works, how to use it, and how to get it—in this article.

What Is Apple Private Relay?

iCloud Private Relay is a privacy-centric feature of iCloud+ that works similarly to a VPN to hide a device's IP address and browsing behavior from those who want to access it, such as advertisers.

Private Relay works on the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and Mac. It requires iOS 15, iPadOS 15, or macOS Monterey, or higher. It also requires an iCloud+ account, which is the name for any paid iCloud account.

At launch, Private Relay is not available in some countries, including China, Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uganda, and the Philippines.

While somewhat related, iCloud Private Relay is not the same as Private Browsing, ad blocking, reduced ad tracking, or App Tracking Transparency.

How Does iCloud Private Relay Work?

When iCloud Private Relay is on, all Safari web browsing traffic is routed through two servers before the user is connected to the site they want to browse. Apple operates one server, and a third-party company operates the other. The user can control whether their device's IP is an approximation of their true location or if it only shares their country and time zone.

While this is similar to a traditional VPN, Private Relay doesn't offer all VPN features. For instance, it does not allow users to appear to be located in another country to bypass regional restrictions on content like a VPN.

Ready to try it out? To turn on iCloud Private Relay, follow these steps:

  1. Tap Settings.

  2. Tap your name.

  3. Tap iCloud.

    Settings > Name > iCloud on iPhone
  4. Tap Private Relay.

  5. Move the Private Relay slider to on/green.

  6. To adjust your Private Relay settings, tap IP Address Location.

  7. On the IP Address Location screen, you have two options:

    • Maintain General Location: This lets websites know roughly where you are located when using Private Relay. Your exact location is still protected, but this setting lets you get location-specific content and features.
    • Use Country and Time Zone: Want a higher degree of privacy? This setting only shares your country and time zone, but no other specific location data. This may cause trouble for location-dependent features and sites, but it's more private.
    Private relay > toggle switch > IP Address Location Settings

Is Private Relay Free?

Private Relay is not free, but it is included with all of the other features in iCloud+. To get iCloud+, you can sign up for the lowest cost iCloud account—just $0.99/month in the U.S., as of this writing—though any paid iCloud account qualifies. Other iCloud+ features include all previous paid iCloud features like upgraded storage, plus privacy-centric disposable email addresses, and video storage for HomeKit-enabled home-security cameras.

You can't subscribe to iCloud Private Relay on its own. The only way to access it is by paying for some level of iCloud service.

Does Private Relay Only Work on Safari? 

Yes. The only browser currently supporting iCloud Private Relay is Safari. That means even if you have Private Relay enabled but you use Chrome or another browser, your privacy won't be protected by it. If you want VPN-type features to use with a browser other than Safari, you'll need to sign up for a separate VPN service.

  • How do I keep private photos off iCloud?

    You can turn off iCloud Photos. Go to Settings > Apple ID banner > iCloud > Photos and turn the iCloud Photos switch to Off.

  • How do I make my iCloud calendar private?

    You can stop sharing your calendar. Select the sharing icon to the right of the calendar's name in the sidebar. To stop sharing with a single person, select the person's name and choose Remove Person > Remove > OK. To stop sharing with everyone, clear the Public Calendar box and choose OK > Stop Sharing.

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