Google Chrome's "IP Protection" vs Apple Private Relay


Google Chrome's "IP Protection" vs. Apple's iCloud Private Relay

Tech giants like Google and Apple are stepping up their game to offer enhanced user privacy. Google's recent announcement of its "IP Protection" feature for Chrome follows in the footsteps of Apple's iCloud Private Relay, albeit with some differences. Let's delve deeper into these features and explore how they compare.

Apple's iCloud Private Relay: A Closer Look

In 2021, Apple introduced the iCloud Private Relay for its paid iCloud+ subscribers. This feature ensures encrypted traffic from the user's device, routing internet requests through two separate relays. The intention is to prevent anyone, including Apple, from creating a comprehensive user profile based on IP address, location, and browsing activity.

However, it's crucial to note that this feature is specific to Apple's Safari browser. It's not a full-fledged VPN, but rather a browser-centric service, providing protection only within Safari on iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. The user's internet requests are routed first through an Apple server, then through a partner network like Akamai, Cloudflare, or Fastly, before reaching the intended destination. This dual-hop ensures that neither party has a complete view of both the user's IP address and the browsing destination.

Google's "IP Protection": Playing Catch-up?

Google's "IP Protection" for Chrome seems to be an answer to Apple's initiative. By masking users' IP addresses using proxy servers, Google aims to strike a balance between user privacy and essential web functions. Unlike Apple's solution that is limited to Safari, Google's feature potentially has a wider application within the Chrome ecosystem.

However, Google's solution is still in its infancy, with phased implementation and limited domain application. While Apple has already integrated and offered the iCloud Private Relay to its users, Google is in the early stages of testing its feature.

Can Apple Allow Google's Feature on Chrome?

Given the competitive nature of the tech industry, it remains uncertain whether Apple will allow Google's IP Protection feature on Chrome for Apple devices. With iCloud Private Relay already in place, Apple may see Google's feature as redundant or even conflicting with its privacy objectives.

The Bigger Picture: Ad Tracking and Platform Control**

While both companies are making strides in user privacy, there's an underlying narrative to consider. The push to hide IP addresses and promote privacy features may seem noble, but ad tracking remains pervasive. These new features can be seen as strategies to pigeonhole users into specific platforms. By offering unique privacy features, tech giants can lure users into their ecosystem, ensuring that while users may feel they're escaping the watchful eyes of advertisers, they remain very much within the tracking ambit of these platforms.

Both Apple's iCloud Private Relay and Google's "IP Protection" offer enhanced privacy features, albeit with distinct approaches and coverage. As Google plays catch-up to Apple in this domain, it's essential for users to stay informed and understand the real implications of these features. The ultimate goal should be genuine online privacy, and as we've discussed in our article on TLS fingerprinting, network-based fingerprinting is becoming increasingly vital to protect services in this rapidly evolving environment.

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