You probably know by now that your internet service provider watches what you do. After all, a tiny bit of surveillance helps these companies provide the best services possible. But many ISPs collect data beyond their scope, according to a new report from the FTC.
For instance, some of the biggest ISPs use your web browsing history to target ads. They’ll pinpoint your race, ethnicity, economic status, politics, religious beliefs, and even sexual orientation. An ISP doesn’t need to know whether you find Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie more attractive to provide good internet services.
We put together this guide to the information your ISP collects to protect your privacy. Thanks to ExpressVPN for sponsoring this article. Here are some surprising ways ISPs track you — and what you can do about it.
First off, here’s how your ISP could hurt you
According to the FTC, several ISPs it studied use your data in ways that could cause you harm. For instance, they’ll collect and combine data like this:
- Location history
- What you watch on the TV
- Contents of your email
- Search history
- Data from connected devices
As we said earlier, they’re not collecting this information for fun. They want to make some sweet, sweet cash on the side. And they’re not picky when it comes to customers.
The FTC study says this data can be used by people who would use it “for discriminatory purposes.” Think of bail bond agents, property managers and bounty hunters.
That’s right. Dog the Bounty Hunter could potentially head to your ISP and ask for all your information. If he has deep enough pockets, he could sniff out your secret underground bunker. To make matters worse, he could buy your TV history from your ISP.
That means he could probably guess what you’re watching right when he breaks down the front door. You won’t even be able to hide the fact you were rewatching your guilty pleasure, like “Sex and the City.” After all, there are no secrets from the data collection industry.
Second, ISPs reach way further than you’d think
Did you think your service provider only tracks what you’re Googling on your phone or laptop? Think again.
The FTC says they amass large pools of sensitive consumer data. They’ll team up with affiliates, combining their data with findings with other services, like:
- Connected cars
- Video streaming
- Content creation
- Home security
Oh, and if that weren’t overwhelming enough, get this. The FTC says many ISPs in its study also combine subscriber data (that is to say, data on you) with extra information they obtain from third-party data brokers.
This results in “extremely granular insights and inferences into not just ISP subscribers, but also their families and households,” according to the study. Let’s translate that into English. Sure, your ISP knows a heck of a lot about you. But it may also know a heck of a lot about the people you live with, too!
Protect you and your loved ones with a VPN
If you don’t want wealthy data nerds to make millions off your personal browsing habits, you need to create a defense strategy.
You can’t exactly cut yourself off from modern technology, though. After all, most jobs require a desktop, phone and internet connection. The best way to protect yourself is by signing up for a VPN.
To make a long story short, a VPN is like an extra layer of protection. It hides your history from your ISP by masking your behavior. When you turn on a VPN, you can pretend you’re somebody else, thus thwarting your ISP’s attempts to mine your data for gold.
ExpressVPN is our favorite
Big Tech corporations are supposed to safely handle our personal online data, but now they’re getting into the political game. Kim doesn’t want to be any part of that, and neither should you. That’s why she trusts and uses ExpressVPN.
These Big Tech companies match your internet activity to your identity or location by using your public IP address, but with ExpressVPN, no one can see your IP address. It’s speedy, reliable and highly-rated. Find out why so many people swear by it and sign up today.
Protect your privacy. Get three months free when you sign up for one year at ExpressVPN.com/Kim.