Let’s stop beating around the bush and get straight to the point, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can monitor, record, and even share your internet browsing history. With the ongoing threat of unwanted blanket surveillance from different governmental agencies such as NSA and GCHQ, it is no surprise that Internet services are used to collect user information.
If that’s not enough, there are laws and regulations that permit ISPs to use users browsing data as they wish. In the United States, President Trump signed a bill recently that would repeal internet privacy rules. Therefore, in light of such privacy threats, we have highlighted different ways through which you can hide browsing history from ISPs.
How Does My ISP Know What I Download & Browse
Before we go onto explain each of the above listed methods, it is important to know how ISPs record your browsing history and downloads. One of the ways ISPs can track and record your data is through your IP address, port numbers, and DNS address.
By analyzing this information, ISPs can see the websites you visited, with whom you communicated, and downloads you performed. Can they see the contents of what you download or browse? It may require a bit of work, but it is not impossible. With Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), ISPs can inspect each internet data packet and read the contents of your browsing History.
ISPs Can Store, Share & Sell Browsing Data in USA
Last few weeks have been a nightmare for American internet users.It looks like this nightmare is now going to be a reality. First, the Senate and then Congress voted to repeal broadband privacy rules. Now President Trump has signed the bill to repeal internet privacy rules as well. The bill gives full authority to ISPs to share and sell Netizens browser history without their consent.
— Fight for the Future (@fightfortheftr) March 28, 2017
What does this entail for your online privacy? ISPs can have access to your web browsing history, geographic locations, financial information, health information, download activities, emails, conversations, spouse and children’s information, and much more.
Furthermore, they can sell this information to third party or the highest bidders. They can also show you more targeted advertisements based on your browsing pattern. Likewise, ISPs can keep a lookout about your whereabouts by monitoring your geo-location information.And, this is not just limited to USA. ISPs all over the world can sell your private data to vendors, advertisers, and other third parties.
How to Stop ISPs from Selling Your Private Data
Here is a close look at different ways through which you can prevent internet providers from tracking,storing, sharing or selling your personal information.
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to Encrypt Everything
A virtual private network (VPN) is the best tool secure your privacy. It encrypts and tunnels your internet traffic, not allowing anyone, including the government or ISP, from reading the contents of your web traffic. Here are some VPNS to hide your browsing history from ISP:
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An added benefit of using a VPN is that it hides you from your ISP as well. When you connect to a VPN server, you adopt the location of the VPN server. However, be sure to select a VPN that is not located in the U.S. Since the broadband privacy bill is now repealed, it is safe to use a VPN that operates outside the jurisdiction of American laws.
That said, can ISP track VPN service? Your ISP can see that you have established a VPN connection. However, they cannot see the contents of your web traffic, as it is encrypted into alphanumeric characters.
Browse Websites with HTTPS & Use HTTPS Everywhere
Websites that use HTTP do not protect their visitors. On the other hand, HTTPS (hypertext transfer protocol secure) encrypts the contents of the website and makes it difficult for anyone to read your activities. Another way to secure your privacy is by using the browser extension, HTTPS Everywhere. This browser extension automatically switches HTTP websites to HTTPS.
Use Ad Blocker & Script Blocker Extensions
In addition to HTTPS Everywhere, there are browser extensions you can use to secure your online privacy. Ad-blocker is excellent in stopping intrusive advertisements and is readily available on all web browsers.
Surf through Tor Browser for added security
For added security, you can use Tor Browser for surfing the internet. It bounces your internet communications through different nodes, making it difficult for your ISP from tracking you. Other browsers such as Google Chrome keep track of your browsing history, keystrokes, and retain your data on Google servers.
Tor Browser relieves you of all such perils and preserves your privacy. You can alsouse the browser with a VPN service working in the background, offering ironclad security. However, we should warn you that Tor Browser could be slow at times.
Stay Away from Insecure Public Wi-Fi’s
Now if you use public Wi-Fi networks at cafes, libraries, airports, or any other place, it is best to stay away from them. Since ISPs can now sell your browsing history to anyone, citizens using public Wi-Fi are more at danger. We would advise you to avoid such networks unless they are trusted.
Don’t Check-In or Tag Your Location
As good as, it is to check-in to your favorite restaurant, café, workplace, shopping mall, or any other place, it is needless to say that your location is tracked by your network provider. Your whereabouts can reveal a lot of personal information to marketers, so it is better to avoid tagging your location everywhere you go. Especially after the removal of broadband privacy rules, this becomes more important as your network carrier can constantly keep an eye on where you are.
Get a Strong Internet Security Suite
You might be wondering how an internet security suite stop ISPs from selling private data. To be honest, it doesn’t, but what it does it stops intrusive and malicious ads from exploiting your privacy. Different security suites block spyware, ransomware, Trojans, viruses, and other malware from infecting your system. Therefore, in case advertisers and third parties get hold of your data, internet security software will help preserve your privacy and sensitive data.
How Long Do ISPs Keep Logs
Now that we have shown different ways to hide your internet browsing history, the next question arises, for how long do they store the data? TorrentFreak conducted a research on how long various ISPs in the United States keep IP logs of users. Here is a quick look at some of these internet providers:
- Comcast: does not officially list the time duration, but retains IP addresses for 180 days that are involved in BitTorrent
- Time Warner: stores data and IP logs for up to 6 months
- Verizon: information from IP address is kept for 18 months
- AT&T: keeps logs for almost a year
- Charter: stores information and IP logs for one year
Although, these are the time duration for ISPs keep IP logs, it also gives us an idea for how long an ISP might store your browsing history. Therefore, it is important that you protect your privacy from ISPs. To learn how to do this, continue reading.
The repeal of ISP bill is a setback for U.S Netizens and is a violation to their privacy, no matter from which angle you see it. FCC introduced broadband privacy rules to protect internet users from such acts and stop internet providers from sharing user information with consent.
However, it is hard to vindicate the act of Congress and now US President, Donald Trump. The revocation of broadband privacy bill leads to unparalleled privacy issues. With access to mammoth amounts of personal information, you need to take precautionary measures.
Our post highlighted some of the ways to stop ISP tracking. You can use a VPN, browser extensions, and other tools to uphold your privacy against broadband privacy repeal.