TL;DR: Title.

I see that macOS's Private Relay essentially relays the internet traffic from my iMac to an internet endpoint (or rather an internet traffic light) in a way that neither Apple nor the visited website fully knows where the traffic originated from/is going to.

When browsing with Safari, Private Relay ensures all traffic leaving a user’s device is encrypted, so no one between the user and the website they are visiting can access and read it, not even Apple or the user’s network provider. All the user’s requests are then sent through two separate internet relays. The first assigns the user an anonymous IP address that maps to their region but not their actual location. The second decrypts the web address they want to visit and forwards them to their destination. This separation of information protects the user’s privacy because no single entity can identify who a user is and which sites they visit.

So, is it time to stop paying for VPN?

The specific cases I use VPN for are:

  1. Unlocking geolocation specific content;
  2. Unlocking lower prices for services available in other countries;
  3. Preventing data hoarders from knowing my actual location when surfing; and
  4. Downloading torrents.
  • By that logic, you should use Tor. Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 0:16
  • @MarcWilson: Tor is definitely the safest option, which comes at a loss of internet speed. The goal is not to have a FBI-proof solution, rather a internet-advertising-industry proof solution. You know… Zuckerberg-proof… something like that. Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 0:20
  • VPN is a technology that provides a secure channel between two points which can be used in different scenarios for different purposes. You should specify what purpose you use VPN for.
    – not2savvy
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 15:55
  • @not2savvy: Updated. Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 16:19

1 Answer 1


While it will depend on the actual use case, the general answer is that Private Relay is not a true substitute for VPN.

While similar in idea, the specific cases where Private Relay and VPN differ are:

  1. Private Relay only works on Safari: In a typical Apple fashion, you do not get the benefits of Private Relay if you use anything other than Safari. I verified it by opening an IP tracing website to find what my IP was being seen by it. Got different results on Safari and Firefox. Firefox exposed my actual IP; Safari didn't.

  2. You cannot change countries, using Private Relay. Private Relay has only two options as of today:

    1. General Location, close to your actual location. So if you are in zipcode 12345, it will relay you to an endpoint close to that zip code. This enables that you get location-specific suggestions if you prefer while masking your true location.
    2. Country and Time Zone. ..which is even more general than 'General Location' and typically shows you close to a metro city in your time zone, in your country.

    As a result, if you are in the US, for example, you cannot change your country to Canada to access content that's available in Canada but not in the US.

  3. Private Relay may not be available in your country. And as a result, VPN may be your only solution.

  • 1
    Also: “It’s easily identifiable as a “proxy server,” which many large networks like those at schools or businesses will not work with. Most good VPNs disguise themselves to look like regular non-proxy traffic.” - macworld
    – JBallin
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 6:15

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