By default, your ISP (internet service provider) tracks all your online activities. All your downloads and uploads go through their infrastructure, making them the perfect middlemen.
Once the ISP has your data, they can pretty much do anything with it: they can sell it to third parties, hand it over to the government when requested, or analyze it for different purposes.
There are, however, things you can do to block ISP tracking and remain private online. Read on to find out more.
What Your ISP Knows About You
As the middleman between the data you send to and from the internet, your ISP can see almost everything you do online. This is because you connect to the internet using their network and equipment. They assign you an IP address that makes it easy for them to track everything, especially when you visit sites with no HTTPS connection.
Your ISP knows:
- Connection dates and times.
- Your passwords.
- Your social media data.
- Your physical location every time you use the internet.
- The services or websites you visit.
- Unencrypted email conversations, online searches, websites, and files you download.
- The source of encrypted data.
Why Your ISP Is Tracking You
Your internet service provider tracks you for various reasons, including the following.
1. Data Retention
In many countries, ISPs are legally required to hold their customer’s data for a specific period. This data is beneficial to law enforcement agents and governments as they claim to use it to find criminals and fight terrorism.
However, ISP tracking can also be used as an instrument for mass surveillance, where ordinary people are tracked for no apparent reason. Also, such tracking means whistleblowers or journalists who want to disclose sensitive information have no way of staying anonymous without using the right security tools.
2. Bandwidth Throttling
Yes, there are sneaky ISPs who pretend to give you ‘unlimited plans’, only for them to slow down your internet speeds. This practice is known as bandwidth throttling and is based on the type or volume of traffic being transmitted. For instance, ISPs may throttle your connection to individual sites because you are using P2P platforms, streaming videos, or choosing their rivals’ content over theirs. Your ISP has to monitor your traffic to do all these!
The information your ISP collects about you is extremely beneficial to advertisers who use it to profile you and send you targeted ads. Your ISP can, therefore, sell your data to the highest bidder.
How You Can Stay Private
Now that you are aware that your ISP is watching, what can you do to stay private online? Here are some of the ways to hide your internet activity and prevent your ISP from tracking you.
1. Use a VPN
One of the most foolproof ways to block your ISP’s tracking is using a VPN app to encrypt your network. By accessing the internet via a VPN server, you will be encrypting all your traffic. That means even though your data still passes through your ISP’s network, it will be useless to them as they won’t be able to figure out what it is about. It will be all gibberish to them.
A VPN goes a step further to change your ISP given IP address to one belonging to the VPN server. This means all the online services or websites you visit will have no idea that they are talking to you. They will also not know your exact location as the VPN will have changed your location to the one where the server belongs.
The problem is that VPNs would then have the same authority as ISPs, and they can end up collecting your browsing data and selling it to advertisers to make a profit. That’s why it’s crucial to choose a premium VPN with an uncompromising no-logs policy and a reputation for sticking to it.
2. Use HTTPS
Another way to maintain your privacy online is ensuring that you only visit HTTPS websites. These websites are encrypted and will better protect your data from ISP tracking. The problem, however, is that HTTPS doesn’t make you fully anonymous.
While your ISP won’t know precisely what you are doing, they can still see the exact connection times, the sites you are visiting, and how much data you are downloading. Therefore, if you want to keep your browsing habits completely anonymous, then you’ll have to use both HTTPS and VPN.
3. Use Tor
Also called onion routing, Tor anonymizes and encrypts your traffic. It routes your traffic through various servers (also known as nodes) that are run by volunteers. Tor servers are all over the world, and this makes it hard to track where the initial traffic is coming from, thus helping you hide from your ISP.
There is a problem, though; tor only works for browsing. So, the files you download and other software will not be protected.
It is clear that your ISP tracks your online footprint, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop enjoying all the benefits that come with using the internet. Use the above tips to stay anonymous online and block your ISP from stalking you.