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Can Your ISP See Everything You Do Online?
Your ISP is the one making it possible for you to access the web.
So, you have to wonder – can they actually see all the things you do?
Well, the answer isn’t going to make you happy.
What Exactly Can Your ISP See?
A lot of things:
- How much data you use.
- What URLs and web pages you access.
- When you log on and off the Internet.
- What you do and type on unencrypted platforms (HTTP websites, basically).
- How much time you spend on a specific web page.
- All your browsing history.
Well, it’s about to get even worse once you see how they use that info.
Why Does Your ISP Monitor So Much Data?
Here’s what your ISP can actually do with all your browsing history:
Sell It to Advertisers
If you’re in the US, I’ve got some bad news for you – your ISP can actually sell your data to advertisers if they want to.
What kind of data?
Well, stuff like your health info, app usage history, and financial details – just to name a few examples.
Don’t get too excited if you’re outside the US, though. Just because ISPs in other countries don’t make it public that they sell data to advertisers doesn’t mean they don’t do that behind closed doors.
After all, as long as the government gets their share of the profits, they won’t really care about your privacy.
Plus, if you ever end up traveling to the US, your hotel’s ISP will log your traffic.
Throttle Your Bandwidth
Bandwidth throttling is when your ISP intentionally slows down your online speeds. They claim to do that to prevent network congestion at peak hours, and to better optimize their services.
However, the reality is that some ISPs use bandwidth throttling as a way to pressure customers like you into buying more expensive subscriptions and data plans.
Also, with bandwidth throttling, ISPs don’t need to pay more money for newer and better storage equipment.
And your ISP can do all of that because they can detect all your data packets. When they notice packets from a specific service (Netflix or an online game), they can throttle your speeds.
Follow Data Retention Regulations
Data retention is usually how and how long ISPs and other businesses store user data.
To be honest, in my opinion, even storing user data for a day is one day too many. It’s just an invasion of privacy.
True, data retention has its uses – like helping out people who want to recover lost data, or improving customer services.
However, there’s a dark side to it too.
If that were to happen, hackers could use your info in scams, or just sell it on the deep web.
Stop and Discourage Torrenting
If you live in a country where torrenting is a sensitive legal issue, your ISP will definitely monitor your browsing habits to make sure you’re not doing anything that could get you or their company in trouble.
ISPs can’t really see Bittorrent traffic directly, but they can keep an eye out for traffic patterns that reveal torrenting (like multiple TCP connections).
If they catch you in the act, they can forward your contact details to copyright agencies.
That’s not all, though – your ISP can also terminate your service on the spot if torrenting goes against their ToS.
Restrict Your Access to the Web
In countries that censor the web, the government can force national ISPs to block your access to specific websites.
They do that by assigning firewall rules to your IP address – the one they also assigned to you when you signed up for their service.
Does Incognito Mode Help?
Nope, not at all.
Here’s the problem with incognito mode (or any of its alternatives) – it only hides your browsing history from people who use the same device as you.
Yes, it doesn’t save anything you type, it deletes cookies, and erases your browsing history – but that doesn’t mean your ISP can’t still see it. They can still monitor your traffic if they want to.
Now don’t get me wrong – you should definitely use incognito mode, but only when you’re sharing a device with other people (like a family computer, for example).
What Can You Do to Stop ISP Monitoring?
Given how much control your ISP has over your online traffic, you’d think there’s not much you can do to stop their creepy spying habits.
Luckily, that’s not the case. Here are your options:
Use a VPN
In a nutshell, a VPN is an online service that encrypts your Internet traffic and hides your IP address.
By hiding your address, the service lets you bypass government censorship. The ISP’s firewall rules don’t apply to your new IP address, so there’s nothing stopping you from browsing the web.
And by encrypting your traffic, the VPN makes sure your ISP can never monitor what you do on the web. If they try to take a peek, they’ll just see gibberish. At most, they’d assume you’re browsing an HTTPS website.
So they can’t sell your browsing history anymore, or throttle your bandwidth.
Finding a good VPN can be a bit tough, though. There are hundreds of providers on the market, and just going through the most popular ones is going to take you a few hours at least.
Fortunately, I can make things a bit easier – just check out this list of the best VPN services from ProPrivacy.com. It’s got all the info you need in one easy-to-scan format.
Use HTTPS Everywhere
If VPNs don’t sound good to you, then install HTTPS Everywhere on your browser(s).
The last thing you want is to browse HTTP websites – they don’t use encryption, so your ISP can monitor what you do on them.
Well, HTTPS Everywhere automatically upgrades HTTP websites to HTTPS when possible.