The latest Apple versions of iOS, iPadOS, and macOS have brought many new features to users around the world. The new Private relay, available with iOS 15, offers VPN-like functionality and hides user internet activity.
The big problem with its use is that it is a paid service. Fortunately, there are ways to improve your privacy on the Internet without having to pay for Apple’s service.
Before we see what free tools you can use to hide your internet traffic, let’s take a quick look at Apple’s private relay feature.
How to activate the private relay function?
Again, keep in mind that the use of the private relay feature is limited to users who have a paid iCloud plan. Any plan will work, as long as it is paid for.
Using an Apple mobile device:
- Go to Settings > Apple ID (banner of your name)
- Tap on iCloud and then in the Private relay option
- Turn on the private relay with the switch
Using a Mac:
- Go to System preferences >Apple ID
- Click on iCloud
- Check the box next to Private relay
Generally speaking, Private Relay is somewhat limited compared to other VPNs. Apple’s Internet Privacy feature only allows users to change their IP addresses.
Choose General IP address hides its exact location and replaces it with a general one. Websites won’t be able to identify you, but they will know what region or city you are in.
Alternatively, you can choose “Use country or time zone” and set a country or time zone to use as the general location. This option offers the highest degree of privacy.
Now, let’s see how you can get all these features and more, for free:
Get Private Relay Features for Free
To emulate the functionality that the paid private relay feature offers, you can use a VPN or third-party email services that offer great privacy features. When it comes to using a VPN, most of them offer many features that Private Relay doesn’t.
Almost all VPNs allow you to change your IP address on the fly. This is great if you want to access region-blocked content or services, or want to hide your home IP address.
While VPNs will hide your IP, the websites you access can still track your location. To prevent this from happening, you will need to use a DNS client, such as the one in Cloudflare. This will effectively encrypt all your internet traffic.
However, if you are only concerned about your emails, you can use one of these solutions:
Emulate Apple’s Hide My Email feature using DuckDuckGO
Apple’s Hide My Email feature allows users to essentially use a disposable email address that is changed every time they send a message. All emails that are received at that address are automatically forwarded to your actual inbox. The Hide My Email feature also removes trackers that may have been attached to your emails.
Duck Duck to Win offers an email protection service that rivals Apple’s. However, its use is completely free. As with Apple’s solution, all incoming emails go through a disposable address and are then forwarded to your actual inbox. This service also removes trackers.
The service automatically creates a new email address each time you need to send an email. However, you can also create a permanent “@duck” address that you can share with others and use as a filter for your emails.
When you want to prevent someone from emailing you, you can simply delete the disposable inbox and create a new one. All disposable or permanent “filter” inboxes will remove trackers from emails, so no one will be able to track you using the redirected emails.
Remove tracking pixels from your emails with Gmail or Microsoft Outlook
Most of the trackers that companies use as part of their emails are usually in the form of hidden images. These let them know that the email has been opened when they are displayed on their screen.
These trackers can be blocked by preventing email address providers from uploading the images in the first place. Here’s how to do it:
- Go to Settings and then to Images section below general
- Please select Ask before showing external images
Using Outlook on mobile devices:
- Go to Choices
- Please select Block external images
Using Outlook on the desktop:
- Go to Choices > Trust Center
- Deactivate Automatic downloads on desktop
Using Apple Mail:
- Go to preferences > Visit
- Deactivate Upload remote content in messages
If you want to see the images that are part of your emails, but you don’t know which are hidden trackers, there are extensions that will help you.
Choose a private email provider
Another option is to switch to a private email client. Almost all of these offer great security features and will block trackers while also telling you who has included them in your emails.