What Is iCloud Private Relay & How Does It Work?

iCloud Private Relay is an additional service for iCloud+ subscriptions designed to keep your web browsing private and secure. When it is enabled, no single party can know your identity or which site you are visiting.

Myra updated on Apr 19, 2024 | Home > iOS & Mac Topics

iCloud Private Relay: What Is It?

In 2021, Apple released a new feature called iCloud Private Relay, which is a part of its iCloud+ subscription service. It is designed to enhance users' privacy and security when browsing websites in Safari. When iCloud Private Relay is enabled, it encrypts the user's internet traffic and routes it through two separate internet relays before it reaches the destination website. This process helps to hide the user's IP address and location, making it more difficult for third parties to track their online activity.

How Does iCloud Private Relay Work?

iCloud Private Relay is a privacy feature that helps protect users' Safari activity by encrypting and routing their internet traffic through two separate internet relays. The whole process goes like this:

  • When you browse a website on Safari, iCloud Private Relay encrypts your traffic and sends it to an Apple relay server.
  • The first relay server strips off any information that could be used to figure out your identity and gives you a temporary IP address.
  • Then, the encrypted traffic is sent to a second relay server, which decrypts the data and sends it to the destination website.

Additionally, iCloud Private Relay uses Obfuscation technology to protect your privacy by preventing websites and third parties from tracking your IP address and location, ensuring your browsing activity remains private and secure.

iCloud Private Relay: How Can I Set It Up?

To enable or set up iCloud Private Relay, you need an iOS device that runs iOS 15 or iPadOS 15 and later. Also, you should subscribe to iCloud+.

On your iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch: Go to Settings > Your Name > iCloud > Private Relay to turn on iCloud Private Relay.

On your Mac running macOS 13 and later: Open Apple menu > System Settings > Your Name > iCloud > Private Relay.

On your Mac running macOS 12: Open Apple menu > System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud > Private Relay.

After enabling the Private Relay, you can choose to set your location as a general location or a more obscure location using the country and time zone in the IP Address Location settings.

ip address location settings

iCloud Private Relay vs. VPN: What Are the Differences?

iCloud Private Relay and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are both tools designed to enhance privacy and security when browsing the internet, but they have some key differences:

🔎 iCloud Private Relay VPN
Provider Apple Server Third-party Servers
Scope Only works with Safari Encrypts all internet traffic on the device
Server Location In nearby locations In various countries around the world
Customization Encrypts and routes Safari browsing traffic through Apple's servers Offers more customization options, such as specific server locations, protocols, and encryption levels.

In summary, iCloud Private Relay is a simple and integrated privacy feature that enhances the security of Safari browsing on iOS and Mac devices. VPNs, on the other hand, offer more flexibility and customization options for encrypting all internet traffic on your device and accessing geo-restricted content.


To ensure you have a secure and private online experience, you should go for iCloud Private Relay, which protects the user's identify and IP address.