Can My Internet Provider See My Browsing History?
The internet only started growing in the last couple of decades, but it’s already become an integral part of everyone’s lives. Almost all parts of the average person's routine interact with the internet somehow, like education, work, and even entertainment. But that brings up an important question: How private is your internet browsing?
To answer that question, we must first dive into the details of how ISPs work and what is and isn’t allowed. So keep reading to find out more about internet privacy and if an internet provider can actually see your browsing history.
Can my internet provider see my browsing history, what sites I visit, and what I’m doing online?
In short, yes, internet providers have access to all the information related to your internet browsing on their end.
ISPs can track and monitor your IP address, connection location, internet traffic, data usage, and more. However, while ISPs have access to all of that information, most won’t outright sell this private data to other companies. This information can, and quite often is, shared with third parties.
It’s worth noting that even if your ISP can see and keep track of all of your data and information, they often don’t care about it and don’t even stop to check it unless you’re doing something illegal. If you’re caught engaging in any illegal online activity, the ISP can be subpoenaed and required to share their data with law enforcement. In this case, the law would have access to your entire browsing history and the data collected.
Does this still apply if I browse in “Private” or “Incognito” mode?
Yes, the ISP can still track your data even if you hide it from your browser. When you access your browser through a private or incognito window, all it does is hide the information from your browser so it can’t keep track of it. That way, your search and history won’t show up on your browser or device next time you use it.
However, the data you’re sending and receiving still goes through the internet, which requires the ISP to give you access to it. Meaning that they know everything you’re doing, even when using a private browser.
A quick rundown of what your ISP can – and probably can’t – see
Here’s a list to breakdown what ISPs can and can’t see to help you better understand how they access your browsing information:
ISPs can see:
- Sites you visit
- In some cases, which specific pages on sites you visited
- That you visited a search engine
- Sites you visited but deleted from your browser history
- Sites you visited in incognito mode
- Activity and data use via apps
ISPs cannot see:
- Your actual queries in search engines, only that you visited one
- Videos or content have you viewed on Youtube, only that you visited Youtube.com or used their app
However, it’s important to understand that “deep packet information” can be obtained and pulled to learn more about your data. This includes messages that you sent, files you’ve downloaded, and search queries. This is usually done when law enforcement needs a detailed view of your data and information.
Why would my ISP need to have this information?
All the data your ISP collects is useful for websites to display targeted ads based on your online habits and internet history.
Managing network traffic
Many cable and broadband ISPs use network traffic information to throttle speeds for websites with heavy traffic and high data usage, like YouTube, Netflix, or Twitch. This throttling helps the company manage traffic to reduce congestion, particularly during peak usage hours.
However, this isn’t an issue for every ISP. Some don’t throttle any content at all due to their superior data management and better infrastructure, like Fidium Fiber.
Some countries and nations use ISP data collection to ensure the internet complies with their censorship laws, like Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Additionally, law enforcement can subpoena an ISP for private information in order to settle any legal issues.
If I’m concerned about data privacy, how can I restrict or reduce what my ISP can detect?
Use a VPN
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are an effective way to hide your online activity from your ISP. It’s practical and very accessible to acquire and use one.
VPNs encrypt your internet traffic and data routes through remote servers, making it harder for ISPs to monitor and keep track of your information.
Use HTTPS proxies
HTTPS proxies can help you hide online traffic from your ISP. You can use browser extensions like HTTPS Everywhere to help you hide your online traffic.
However, not all proxies are encrypted, so your data might still be visible to someone.
Use privacy-conscious alternative search engines and web browsers
Using browsers, websites, and search engines engineered to keep your data safe and private is a great way to prevent your ISP from tracking your internet history.
Brave is a great browser alternative to help you hide your traffic. You can also look for better search engine alternatives to hide your search history and queries, like DuckDuckGO or Ecosia. They won’t track or save your data while you browse, but they can’t stop your ISP from trying to check everything either.
So what’s the best way to hide your data from internet providers?
While trying to hide everything from your ISP might be hard, there are many great ways to reduce what they can see. Using a mix of a good VPN, HTTPS proxies, and secure websites will significantly limit the information your ISP gets out of your browsing history.
On top of all of this, the best way to avoid having any issues with your private data is to use a reputable ISP that doesn’t use your information against you or violates your privacy, like FIdium Fiber. Visit our website right now and check for availability in your region to get high-quality internet services from a trustworthy ISP.