Private Relay is a feature in iOS that hides your location and your IP address. It makes web browsing more private. However, you might need to disable it for some sites. Here’s how to do it.
In some ways Private Relay on the iPhone is like a VPN and it hides your IP address, which is your unique identity when browsing the web, it makes your location less precise, and it prevents your internet provider from spying on you. It helps to prevent websites and advertisers from tracking you.
Private Relay is a useful privacy feature for the iPhone, but it is not perfect and if you log into a website, it will definitely know who you are because your account identifies you. Cookies can be used to identify you too. However, providing you don’t log into anything and you either clear cookies or use a private browsing window, you can be fairly anonymous when browsing the web with Private Relay enabled.
It is rare, but in some cases a website may not work correctly when Private Relay is doing its job. It may be because of a security feature on the site or the site may rely on knowing your IP and location for things like delivery services or prices, for example.
Whatever the reason, you can temporarily disable Private Relay for a specific website. This enables it to know your IP address and location, so any service the site offers that relies on them will work. Navigate to a different website and Private Relay is automatically enabled again.
Let’s see how it works. First, we will enable Private Relay on an iPhone, then we will go to a website and disable it just for that site.
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iCloud settings on iPhone
Open the Settings app on the iPhone and press your name at the top to go to Apple ID. Press iCloud and then on the next screen the status of Private Relay is shown. If it is turned off, press it to change it.
Enable iCloud Private Relay
There is a simple on/off switch for Private Relay. Turn it on to keep your internet activity in Safari more private. It protects unencrypted traffic and it means that no-one can see which websites you are visiting.
Private Relay vs VPN: If you are wondering whether Private Relay is as good as a VPN, it is not. A VPN operates system-wide, so ANY app that accesses the internet is protected, whereas Private Relay applies only to Safari and other apps can reveal information about you.
Obscure your location with Private Relay
There is one option on the Private Relay screen, IP Address Location. Press it and there are two choices:
- Maintain general location: Websites will be able to tell aproximately where you are located, but not exactly where you are. It is useful for things like local news.
- Use country and time zone: The website will only know which country you are in and which time zone you use. Your location is very fuzzy. It means a website can show the right language, prices, delivery options and so on.
It is your choice.
Show your IP address
When you are browsing a website in Safari on the iPhone and there is a problem because it relies on your IP address or location, press the aA button at the left side of the address box and select Show IP Address on the menu that is displayed.
A notice appears explaining that the website will temporarily be able to see your IP address. Press Continue if you are OK with this.
I have found that you can tap links within a website and go to new pages and Private Relay remains turned off. It is activated again if you reload a web page, open a new tab or go to a new website.
Press the aA button again and there is a new menu option to Hide IP Address, which turns Private Relay back on. You will not need to turn Private Relay on and off very often, but it is useful to know how to do it without changing it permanently in iCloud settings.