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

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

FILE PHOTO: Apple logo is seen on the Apple store at The Marche Saint Germain in Paris, France July 15, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

CALIFORNIA: Apple on Monday (Jun 8) 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.

It also will not be available in Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uganda and the Philippines, Apple said.

The "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.

READ: Apple developers look for App Store changes at annual conference

READ: Apple adds privacy protections for users, enables storage of IDs on iPhones

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's Google prohibit this.

READ: App Store would be 'toxic' mess without control, Apple CEO says

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

Source: Reuters/ga


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