Every move you make on the internet can be seen by your internet service provider, or ISP. Whether browsing, downloading files or uploading documents, activities are constantly tracked by ISPs for a number of reasons.
Why it is obvious that tracking is done to monitor illicit activity, there are other reasons why ISPs are tracking your online activity.
Discover why your ISP is tracking you, what they can see, and how you can get more privacy while browsing the internet.
What Data Do ISPs Track?
In reality, everything you do online is logged and tracked by your ISP. Once you connect to the internet, your ISP assigns an IP address to your connection. Everything you do online is then logged onto your IP address, allowing your ISP to track your online activity.
Some of the data that ISPs log as you browse the internet can include:
- Websites you visit while browsing
- Downloaded files
- P2P platform activity
- Email messages that are not properly encrypted
- Searches you perform on Google and other search engines
- Geo-location data while browsing from a smartphone
- A physical location when browsing on a computer
- Activities on social media platforms
- Passwords you enter, particularly on websites that do not connect through HTTPS
Why Is Your ISP Tracking You?
There are different reasons for ISPs tracking browsing data. Here are the four most common uses for data logged by ISP trackers.
A common excuse used by ISPs is data retention. This is generally the first thing noted when an ISP is asked what they are doing with your logged data.
Data retention is generally required by laws in certain countries. The law states that ISPs need to store data related to the customer’s browsing data and history for a period of time. The data can come in handy when the government authorities are aiming to identify criminal activities. The data is also utilized in the fight against terrorism in some situations.
Data collected can be used to optimize marketing strategies and deliver more effective messages when promoting content to the consumer. Some ISPs may sell location data along with your browsing history, which gives advertisers an opportunity to take advantage of targeting in their campaigns.
Another reason ISPs monitor your browsing data is to help them determine how to throttle your bandwidth. If you have an unlimited plan, then there’s a chance your ISP may initiate throttling on certain services. By tracking data, the ISP can see what services or content you are accessing most. If they find that your streaming habits are taking up too much bandwidth on the network, they may throttle streaming platforms. This means your internet speed will be slower when you access these websites or apps, which might affect the quality of streams or cause downloads to take longer to complete.
P2P traffic is often associated with illegal activities. Torrents, for example, are often used to distribute video content, games and other files that are protected under copyright laws. There are, however, cases where legal files are downloaded through torrents. A good example is the use of torrents or P2P platforms to download the latest Linux distribution or open-source software.
ISPs also use the logs they collect to monitor for torrent downloading and other P2P activities.
Should You Stop ISP Tracking?
If you want to stop ISP tracking, there are a few ways that you can gain more privacy when browsing the internet.
Use A VPN
A VPN service helps to hide your internet browsing activities and history from your ISP. Your connection is encrypted and your IP address is changed. Essentially, the VPN routes your traffic through one of its own servers.
Tor Browser can be used to anonymize all your traffic data. All data is encrypted and also routed through a server, similar to a VPN service. Tor has servers located in different countries.
Use A Proxy
A proxy has one purpose – to hide your activities from data logs collected by your ISP. It can be used to access websites that are restricted in your country too. Note that a proxy does not encrypt any data transmitted through your connection.
HTTPS does not completely hide your online activity but can create a secure connection. This means your ISP can still track certain activities, but there are limitations to what they can see.
Privacy has become a premium feature in today’s digital world. ISPs are consistently monitoring your online activity for multiple purposes. You can decide if blocking your ISP tracking is right for you.