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Microsoft's latest VPN-like feature brings added network privacy to Edge users

The Microsoft Edge Secure Network feature is currently available in preview and offers similar data privacy protections to Apple's Private Relay tool

Details of a new Microsoft Edge feature that appears to mimic Apple’s iCloud Private Relay have emerged on an official support page.

Called the Microsoft Edge Secure Network, the feature aims to help keep users’ browsing sessions safe and private. It's currently available in ‘preview’, which Microsoft uses to let experienced users and developers trial experimental features before pushing them to its wider user base.

There are a number of key elements to Microsoft Edge Secure Network, the first of which is encrypted network traffic. Microsoft said users’ internet connections will be routed from the Edge browser, through an encrypted tunnel to create a secure connection, even if the website is unsecured itself, helping stop hackers browse data over a public Wi-Fi network, for example.

The second benefit is tied to the encrypted traffic which will also help prevent online tracking, similar to the key selling point of Apple’s Private Relay

Microsoft said that encrypted network traffic means internet service providers (ISPs) cannot collect user browsing data, such as the websites they visit, thus preserving user privacy.

Microsoft Edge Secure Network is not officially being touted as a virtual private network (VPN), or a VPN-like product, but comparisons have been drawn by onlookers, nonetheless.

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While the new feature does offer the functionality of masking an IP address, browsing with a virtual one to further improve online anonymity, users are unable to pick a specific location from which they want to appear to be browsing.

The IP address masking used by Microsoft will replace a user’s geolocation with a similar regional address in a further bid to prevent online tracking from the likes of ISPs.

The feature is free for users, up to a point. In its early preview build, users can get 1GB of free data per month and there does not seem to be an option to purchase a greater limit at this time.

Screenshot of Microsoft Edge Secure Network's data limit UI

Microsoft

If Microsoft Edge Secure Network is made generally available, it’s likely that paid subscription tiers will be introduced, but Microsoft is just gathering feedback at this stage.

To enable the new feature, users running a preview build can simply head to Edge’s settings and click ‘Secure Network’. Microsoft will ask users to register for a Microsoft account if they have not already done so and then the feature will be activated. 

Microsoft Edge Secure Network is being rolled out in partnership with leading web performance and security company Cloudflare which is providing a secure remote proxy for the browser.

Cloudflare said it will only collect limited amounts of data about the HTTP/HTTPS requests sent to the Cloudflare proxy by the Edge Secure Network and will delete temporary logs after a maximum of 25 hours.

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