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If you want two of Apple’s best new iPhone privacy features, you need to pay a monthly fee

Published Jun 16th, 2021 9:08AM EDT
Apple Privacy iCloud Plus
Image: Apple Inc.

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It’s no secret that Apple in recent years has made user privacy a key tenet of the iOS user experience. In fact, Apple CEO Tim Cook on a number of occasions has gone so far as to say that privacy “is a human right.”

“Privacy to us is a human right,” Tim Cook said back in 2018 during an interview about Facebook. “It’s a civil liberty, and something that is unique to America. This is like freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Privacy is right up there with that for us.”

In light of the above, it’s certainly a bit interesting that two of the best iPhone privacy features introduced at WWDC last week — Hide My Email and Private Relay — aren’t exactly free. Rather, they’re only available for users who elect to pay for Apple’s iCloud+ subscription service. And while iCloud+ isn’t exactly expensive, one would think that Apple — as a champion of privacy — would make all of its privacy features free for all users.

In case you missed it, Hide My Email is a nifty feature that allows users to create randomized email addresses that are then forwarded to their actual email. The feature enables users to keep their actual email addresses private. The feature is built directly into Safari, iCloud settings, and Mail, with Apple noting that Hide My Email “also enables users to create and delete as many addresses as needed at any time, helping give users control of who is able to contact them.”

If this sounds at all familiar, it’s because Apple announced something similar two years ago when it introduced its “Sign In with Apple” feature at WWDC 2019.

Private Relay, meanwhile, is a browser-based encryption feature designed to enhance overall security and privacy. While not exactly a VPN, there are a number of similarities.

Apple notes:

Private Relay is a new internet privacy service that’s built right into iCloud, allowing users to connect to and browse the web in a more secure and private way. 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 both who a user is and which sites they visit.

While the features above are certainly welcome, they’re only available for iCloud+ subscribers. The entry-level subscription plan starts at $0.99 per month for 50GB of storage. A 200GB plan and 2TB plan are also available for $2.99 and $9.99 per month, respectively.

As others have noted, the subtle change in Apple’s iCloud offering essentially adds a bit of a privacy layer to the company’s traditional storage-based service.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.