Apple announced several privacy updates at its annual software developers conference on Monday. One, called Private Relay, is of particular interest to Chinese users living under the country’s censorship system, as it encrypts the entire browsing history so that no one can track or intercept the data.
As my colleague Roman Dilet explains:
When Private Relay is turned on, no one can track your browsing history – neither your ISP nor anyone in the middle of your request between your device and the server you want information from. We will have to wait a while to learn more about how it works exactly.
The excitement did not last long. Apple told Reuters that Private Relay would not be available in China, along with Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uganda and the Philippines.
Apple could not be reached immediately by TechCrunch for comment.
Virtual private networks or VPNs are popular tools for consumers in China to circumvent the “great firewall”
In an interview with Fast Company, Craig Federi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, explained why the new feature could be better than a VPN:
“We hope consumers believe in Apple as a reliable intermediary, but we didn’t even want you to trust us. [because] we don’t have this ability to display both your IP and the destination where you’re going – and that’s unlike a VPN. So we wanted to provide many of the benefits that people look for when they have decided to use a VPN in the past, but not force this difficult and deliberately dangerous privacy compromise in terms of trusting an intermediary. “
It is unclear whether Private Relay will simply be excluded from system upgrades for consumers in China and other countries where it is restricted, or will be blocked by ISPs in those regions. It remains to be seen whether the feature will be available to Apple users in Hong Kong, which has seen an increase in online censorship over the past year.
Like all Western technology companies operating in China, Apple is trapped between opposing Beijing and ignoring the values it upholds at home. Apple has had a history of overcoming censorship pressure in Beijing, from migrating all user data in China to a state cloud center, cracking down on independent VPN applications in China, restricting free speech in Chinese podcasts to removing RSS readers from China. App Store.