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How to use private Wi-Fi addresses on the iPhone and iPad to protect your privacy

 Apple has added many features in the latest versions of its iOS 14, iPad OS 14, and watchOS 7 operating systems to help you protect your privacy more, including Using a different MAC address with each Wi-Fi network that your device connects to.

How do private Wi-Fi addresses work?

When an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or any other device connects to a Wi-Fi network, this device must identify itself to the network using a unique network address called (Media Access Control address - known in short as an address MAC) - this identifies the device for the network.

Traditionally; The MAC address is assigned at the device level and it remains the same throughout the life of the device, as every Wi-Fi network you connect to receives the same MAC address from your device. So there is an option to manually change your MAC address on some devices to prevent tracking of your device's activity and protect your privacy.

If the device always uses the same MAC address for every Wi-Fi network it connects to, then Internet providers, network operators, and any other trackers can easily associate that address with the device's network activity and location over time. This allows for some type of user tracking or targeting and applies to all devices, and on all Wi-Fi networks.

So iOS 14, iPad 14, and watchOS 7 allow you to use a different MAC address for each Wi-Fi network to reduce privacy risks.


 How to use private Wi-Fi addresses on iPhone and iPad:

  • Go to (Settings) on the iPhone or iPad.
  • Click on the option (Wi-Fi) Wi-Fi.
  • Select the Wi-Fi network you want to change this option for - it will be at the top of the screen if you are currently connected to it - then tap the (i) icon next to its name.
  • Disable the Private Address option by pressing the toggle next to it to Off.
  • A warning message will appear to you saying: “To use a private Wi-Fi address, the network connection will be temporarily disconnected.” Click on the Disconnect option to end the process, and the device will automatically reconnect to the Wi-Fi network shortly.

 Note: Using a private (MAC) address does not affect how you join or use most Wi-Fi networks, as you will connect to any Wi-Fi network as you normally would. But in some cases it may cause problems with certain networks. For example: If someone sets up the Wi-Fi network you want to connect to to filter the MAC address, and only allow specific devices to connect, or if the organization you work in asks you to disable private Wi-Fi addresses.

But if you encounter a problem connecting to the Internet or accessing it via Wi-Fi, restarting the (private address) option is a good troubleshooting step that will solve your problem in some situations.

You can stop using the private Wi-Fi network address or resume using it separately for each Wi-Fi network to which your device is connected, but Apple recommends that you do not disable it for a network unless you need to do so, to enjoy better privacy.

  • Go to (Settings) on the iPhone or iPad.
    Click on the option (Wi-Fi) Wi-Fi.
    Select the Wi-Fi network you want to connect to, then press the (i) icon in its name.
    Enable the option (private address) by pressing the switch next to it to the on position.
  • You will be asked to re-join the network if you are already connected, press the option (rejoin) Rejoin, and your iPhone or iPad will connect to the network through its regular (MAC) address.