Private Relay is an iCloud+ feature designed to deflect marketers, advertisers, and other parties interested in tracking you across the internet without your direct consent. The service, which remains in beta, can be enabled in iOS, iPadOS, and macOS.
At the same time, Apple released Mail Privacy Protection, an option that uses proxying to prevent your IP address from being grabbed when images or other media or files are loaded within an email message in the Mail app by Apple. This feature doesn’t require an iCloud+ subscription.
While the two seem related in intent to preserve your privacy, they otherwise feel distinct. But Apple has linked to the two in a way that you might not understand as its documentation and descriptions haven’t fully caught up.
First, let’s look at how you enable each feature.
- Private Relay: Your primary switch for Private Relay is in System Preferences > Apple ID > iCloud or Settings > account name > iCloud > Private Relay (Beta). With the Private Relay setting enabled, a two-stage privacy-protecting system kicks in for both Safari and for unencrypted traffic passed by other apps and operating system agents.
- Mail Privacy Protection: In Mail for macOS, choose Mail > Preferences > Privacy and check Protect Mail Activity. In iOS or iPadOS, go to Settings > Mail > Privacy Protection and enable Protect Mail Activity.
Those settings are for separate features and you can enable or disable them individually. However, try the following:
- macOS: Open System Preferences > Network and select an interface in the left-hand list.
- iOS/iPadOS: Go to Settings > Wi-Fi or Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options.
In those locations, there’s a setting labeled Limit IP Address Tracking. This is where it gets confusing. What does this feature do? It combines overriding Private Relay and Mail Privacy Protection for a selected network when you disable or uncheck it.
You would be forgiven for not understanding this clearly by reading the labels:
- In iOS and iPadOS, text below the settings says, “Limit IP address tracking by hiding your IP address from known trackers in Mail and Safari.”
- But in macOS, the text is somewhat longer: “Limit IP address tracking by hiding your IP address from known trackers in Mail and Safari. When this is turned off, iCloud Private Relay will also be turned off for this network.”
- Yet, visit the support page for iCloud Private Relay, and the missing information for iOS/iPadOS appears there, which applies to macOS as well: “Private Relay can be turned on or off just for a specific network using the Limit IP Address Tracking preference.”
- Enable Privacy Relay and Mail Privacy Protection separately (one, the other, or both) in the locations noted above.
- Disable both (not just one or the other) for a specific network interface (Ethernet, Wi-Fi, cellular, etc.) by turning off Limit IP Address Tracking.
- You can’t control this on a network-by-network basis, such as for a specific Wi-Fi network.
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