⌘ March 4, 2022

Cloudflare Reveals Tidbits About iCloud Private Relay

Although ostensibly written for network operators, this post written by Rustam Lalkaka at Cloudflare which explains the underpinnings of iCloud Private Relay is surprisingly readable for a layperson like me. Here’s a bit that I didn’t know before:

  • Cloudflare relays maintain a pool of IP addresses for exclusive use by Private Relay. These IP addresses have been registered with geolocation database providers to correspond to specific cities around the world. When a Private Relay user connects and presents the previously determined geohash, the closest matching IP address is selected.
  • Servers see an IP address that corresponds to the original user IP address’s location, without obtaining information that may be used to identify the specific user.

I knew iCloud Private Relay offered the ability to obfuscate your location. Still, the way the partner companies such as Cloudflare do it with a pool of IP addresses assigned to general areas is pretty cool.

Interestingly, Cloudflare insists that using iCloud Private Relay should speed up some browsing, which is in direct contrast to what some folks were saying during the beta period and beyond. Here’s John Voorhees in his macOS Monterey review for MacStories:

Private Relay is marked in System Preferences as a beta feature. Early in the beta period, I turned the feature off because I noticed a substantial dip in Internet speed when I used it. Late in the beta period, I gave Private Relay another try, and as before, I saw about a 50% drop in speed while using Safari. I tested Private Relay using Speedtest with a wired Internet connection.

Personally, I’ve had iCloud Private Relay on and haven’t noticed much speed difference one way or the other — especially since the public OS release. I just set it and forget it.

Go to the linked site (Rustam Lalkaka // blog.cloudflare.com) →

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