Many internet users are well aware of the dangers they face online. You may take all the precautions you think are necessary, yet there is one group who can see all you do, and every website, or activity you do online.
ISP’s (internet service providers) are the ones who give everyone their internet connection. Many governments have assigned the task of monitoring every user while they are online to the ISP’s.
Anti-privacy bills are in place, and the USA isn’t the only country involved. It is bad enough that your ISP now retains your online activity, but they can harvest this data, and it is known that ISP sell internet history for marketing purposes.
Read on to find out all you need to know about ISP tracking, why you need to be worried, and what you can do to prevent it. (Read our Online Privacy and Security Guide)
What Data Will My ISP Collect?
Your internet service provider will collect more data than you think. However, because there are differences between countries, the rules of what they have to keep can differ.
Can I ask my ISP for internet history?
This may be a common question, and if you request this from an ISP.
They may return the answer; it is an invasion of privacy to retain any personal data. Besides, the format everything is recorded in may not be one you could easily read.
However, many countries may collect any of the following, if not all:
- Website URLs
- Websites you visit
- Session logging – log on times and log off
- How long you are on each page
- The files you upload or download
- The amount of bandwidth you use
- Browsing and search history
- Unencrypted communications
- Unencrypted personal information
Why Does My ISP Harvest So Much Data?
You may wonder, why does your provider know what websites you visit. After all, the sites I visit are of little relevance.
It is this mentality where a provider track your browsing history, and users will be unaware of their activity for harvesting private data.
Here is a quick rundown of why ISP’s record and retain so much of your online activities.
Censorship: Many countries block certain online content. China is a prime example, although many other things may be censored without you knowing.
Bandwidth throttling: ISP’s slow down user connections. Mostly, they say this is due to congestion, yet they do this to spread the load without needing to upgrade equipment evenly. Streaming, and even watching YouTube can enforce a connection throttle.
Torrenting: Many countries take a dim view of torrenting and downloading of copyrighted material. ISP’s now watch for signs of this, and they can issue notices, or pass on user details to the relevant authorities.
Sell Data: Users may think they are safe and secure with their ISP. It would be nice to think so, but now they have the freedom to sell user data to advertisers.
Data Retention: There is a thing called the 5-eyes, 9-eyes, and 14-eyes. These are countries that share information from mass surveillance. Governments have handed the task of data retention to ISP companies. All your browser history can be shared throughout any of these countries. (Lear how to remove history from Google here)
How Long do Internet Providers Keep History
The retaining of data can vary between countries. However, any user should think that anything they do online will be visible, and this data held by their ISP for at least 12 months. Some countries go as far as two years.
Will Using Incognito Mode Stop My ISP From Tracking Me?
Even with the benefits of using incognito mode, this is only to prevent users of the same device from seeing your history. It does nothing to stop your ISP tracking when using private browsing mode.
Can I See What Websites Have Been Visited on My Wi-Fi?
Not every Wi-Fi router is the same, but some do allow for seeing what websites are visited by users. The reason they do this is so you can set up content filtering to prevent specific sites from being accessed.
You can also see what devices are connected and if they are supposed to be connected or not.
How to Hide Browsing History from ISP
There are a few ways you can retain your online privacy, yet there is only one that can do this thoroughly.
HTTPS: This adds a layer of encryption on websites that support it. It can stop anyone seeing what you do on the site, yet your ISP will see communication to and from the site.
TOR: TOR uses an anonymous network that can only be sued by some browsers. You won’t be able to use a search engine in a regular fashion, so you may find it restrictive. Besides this, there are many other quirks, and lack of speed using TOR being one of them.
To thoroughly browse anonymously, you need to use a VPN or virtual private network. Using this can make you invisible to everyone, ISP’s included.
If you consider a free VPN, avoid these at all costs. They are not safe, and they use your data for marketing in the same way as ISP’s.
Here are three of the best VPN providers for stopping your ISP from watching what web pages you visit, and other activities you may get up to.
The number one streaming VPN also delivers the best security by using military-grade encryption. It nearly always ranks as the top VPN service and has one of the best VPN networks there is.
To stop ISP’s, it comes with a kill switch that prevents all connections if you drop your VPN connection.
If you conduct a DNS leak test, your real IP address won’t be seen. It can be used on a wide range of devices, Wi-Fi routers included, though this does depend on the router.
It is super simple to sign up for, and just needs an email address and your payment option. Users can make use of the 30-day money-back guarantee to see how well it stops their ISP from watching or retaining their data.
CyberGhost is a favorite among new users for the handholding it offers. Being anonymous can be straightforward. It makes full use of the same security protocols as the above VPN so that users can go about their online life without any fear of a DNS leak, so their ISP can see what they are doing.
If you sign up for extended periods, you have a 45-day money-back guarantee. The main issue being the majority of their servers are based in Europe and the USA. While this secures those users, if you need far off connections, your speeds can suffer.
VyprVPN locates itself in Switzerland, so users can be guaranteed they are using a trustworthy VPN provider.
All their services focus on security for users. The company owns its own equipment and uses the VyprDNS and Chameleon features to enhance security and anonymity.
Using this VPN, you can see how secure it is against ISP’s from watching, and with any leak test, there is no hint of IP addresses or WebRTC leaks.
It is a highly secure VPN for anyone who needs privacy and very casual streaming or torrenting. It has the smallest network from the VPN’s here, so it may not deliver the best speeds when required. If the main focus is stopping an ISP harvesting data, it can be a great option.
There are countless VPN’s aside from the three above, and some are not as trustworthy. It can be a hard choice, and users can find they leave themselves open in other areas, rather than securing their online identity.
Out of all, the number one on the list continually proves, it is the best VPN for preventing ISP snooping and data harvesting. Add to this, it stops any others seeing what you are doing, and it offers the best streaming and torrenting services as a bonus.