Apple has changed the way the iPhone and iPad connect to Wi-Fi networks with iOS 14 and iPadOS 14. Now devices use private addresses, which are nothing more than different identifiers (MAC addresses) for each WiFi network , which increases the privacy of users. In the vast majority of cases, this shouldn’t give you a problem. However, if a Wi-Fi network resists you, you can disable this functionality for that particular network.
How private addresses work
When an iPhone, iPad, or any other device connects to a Wi-Fi network, it sends a unique address called MAC that identifies the device to the network. Traditionally, the MAC address is set at the hardware level and remains the same for the life of the device. Every network you connect to receives the same MAC address from your device. Although it is possible to change the MAC address manually on some devices, few people do it. This behavior can make it easier to track users. If you move around a city and connect to different public Wi-Fi access points in coffee shops, airports and libraries, your device will use the same MAC address to connect to each of them, which will allow the organization that operates the points Wi-Fi access system track your location movements. With private MAC addresses, the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch will now provide a different MAC address to each Wi-Fi network they connect to. Each Wi-Fi network they connect to receives its own and different MAC address from your device.
Why can private MACs cause problems?
In general, you shouldn’t have a problem with private MAC addresses. This option is active by default and works without problems. In some cases, it could cause problems with certain networks. For example, someone might have set up a Wi-Fi network to use MAC address filtering, allowing only certain devices to connect. In that case, you may have to disable private MAC addresses. You may also have set up parental controls for each device on your Wi-Fi network at home. This feature typically uses MAC addresses to identify and apply restrictions to devices. If you ever have trouble connecting to or accessing the Internet on a Wi-Fi network, disabling this option is a good idea to try to resolve the issue.
How to disable private addresses for a Wi-Fi network
The “Private Address” option is controlled separately for each Wi-Fi network. It is not recommended to disable it for a network unless it is necessary. To find this option, head to Settings> Wi-Fi on your iPhone or iPad. Locate the Wi-Fi network for which you want to change this option, which will appear at the top of the screen if you are currently connected to it. Tap the “i” icon on the right side of the Wi-Fi network name and disable the “Private Address” option by tapping the switch to the right.
The “Wi-Fi Address” option here shows you the private MAC address that is being used on that specific network, in case you need it to configure something on the router, for example. On an Apple Watch, the process is the same: go to Settings> Wi-Fi, tap the name of the network you’ve joined (or swipe left on a network and tap the “…” button if you’re not already connected to it) and turn off the “Private address” slider.