Here's a headline you probably didn't see coming: Google will include free VPN service with its new Pixel 7 phones.

And this isn't even the only 'free VPN' news lately, because Microsoft has just started testing one inside its latest Edge browser too.

Both of these are obviously intended to counter Apple's iCloud Private Relay. And in Google's case, this is in some ways even a leap-frog move: unlike Private Relay — which only applies to web traffic coming from Safari — this Pixel VPN will cover web traffic from any browser on the deviceand apps.

Goodbye, fingerprinting (in theory, anyway).

But there is also a key difference: Apple clearly took pains during the Private Relay announcement to emphasize that it is not technically a VPN (whether you consider this is a good thing will probably depend a lot on whether you see these features as solutions to 'tracking', or just a way to bypass the geo-block on Hulu).

It will be interesting to see how (or even if) this lands with consumers. It's guaranteed that neither Google nor Microsoft will put Apple-level marketing muscle behind it, but on the other hand, iCloud Private Relay seems to be stalled and inexplicably still in beta after over a year.

Alex Bauer

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