Apple has changed the way iPhones and iPads connect to Wi-Fi networks starting with the iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 updates.
How private Wi-Fi addresses work
When an iPhone, iPad, or any other Wi-Fi enabled device connects to a Wi-Fi network, it sends a unique Multimedia Access Control (MAC) address. This identifies the device on the network.
Traditionally, the MAC address was defined at the hardware level and was the same for the life of the device. Each network you connect to receives the same MAC address from your device. You could change the MAC address manually on some devices, but few did.
It's easy to see how this feature could lead to tracking: If you move to a city and connect to different public Wi-Fi hotspots in cafes, airports and libraries, your device will use the same MAC address to connect to each, allowing an organization that uses Wi-Fi hotspots to track your location and network activity over time.
With private Wi-Fi addresses, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch will now provide a different MAC address for each Wi-Fi network to which they connect. Each Wi-Fi network you connect to will receive a different MAC address from device your. Wi-Fi sessions from different Wi-Fi networks can no longer connect so easily.
How Private Wi-Fi Can Cause Problems
Most of the time, you will not notice any problems with private WI-Fi addresses. This option is enabled by default and "it will just work". In some cases, however, it can cause problems in some networks.
For example, someone may have set up a Wi-Fi network to use MAC address filtering, allowing only certain devices. Your business may ask you to turn off private Wi-Fi addresses in this case. At home, you may have set up parents controls for each device on your Wi-Fi network - a feature that uses MAC addresses to detect and apply device restrictions.
If you ever have problems connecting or accessing the internet with a Wi-Fi network, disabling this option is a great solution that will solve your problem in some cases.
How to turn off private addresses for a Wi-Fi network
The "Private Address" option is controlled separately for each Wi-Fi network. We do not recommend disabling it for a network unless you need to do so (or have a problem.)
To find this option, go to Settings> Wi-Fi on your iPhone or iPad. Locate the Wi-Fi network for which you want to change this option - it will be at the top screen if you are currently logged in. Click the "i" icon on the right side of the Wi-Fi network name.
Turn off the "Private Address" option by pressing the switch to the right.
The "Wi-Fi Address" option shows you here the private MAC address used on this particular network, in case you need it - to configure something in a router, for example.
You will be prompted to reconnect to the network if you are already connected. Click "Rejoin" and your iPhone or iPad will reconnect to the normal MAC address.