Do you ever wonder how much information your ISP gathers from your browsing habits? Worse yet, how much of it could be sold to advertisers?
These are the tough things we have to deal with in today’s always-connected world. The sad thing is, there really is no legislation to protect how ISPs can use your intercepted personal data as it passes through the systems.
So what are your options if you’d like to be online and not feel as though your ISP is constantly tracking your every move? Using best practices when it comes to security, your personal data and browsing habits can help prevent others from intercepting your browsing history.
What does my ISP know about my browsing history?
It’s important to remember, ISPs record everything you browse and download to your internet-enabled devices. ISPs track and record data through your IP address, port numbers and DNS address.
ISPs analyze this data to see websites you frequent, who you converse with and any downloads you performed. While actually discovering what you’ve downloaded or browsed requires a little extra effort on their end, it can be done. ISPs use something called deep packet inspection (DPI) to inspect each data packet and allow it to read the contents of your browsing history.
As ISPs gain access to your browsing records, they can access geographic locations, financial data, health data, download actions, private emails, conversations, spouse and children’s info and whatever else they can discover. Due to FTC laws, it’s disturbing that it’s not illegal for ISPs to sell this information to a third party or the highest bidder.
With this specific information at their fingertips, ISPs can also show you targeted ads tailored to your browsing patterns. The same technology lets them keep a view on your location by monitoring your geo-location data.
ISPs all over the world can then sell your private data to vendors, advertisers and other third parties. Ever notice when you’ve been looking for that new tech gadget and then ads are oddly tailored to that wherever you go?
Isn’t incognito mode still private?
While incognito mode is primarily thought of as a de facto means of privacy, this isn’t really the case. The long and the short of it is while using a browser’s private or incognito mode selection will prevent that particular session from displaying in your local browser history, your ISP can still track you by utilizing your IP address.
Now it is still a useful feature, but more so if you’re using someone else’s computer or want to keep specific search queries out of your browser history. But again, private or incognito browsing isn’t as private as it leads on to be.
Here are some options to truly keep your browsing to yourself.
1. Use a VPN
A virtual private network or VPN is your best friend in securing privacy as it encrypts and funnels internet traffic. So it doesn’t allow anyone, including the government or your ISP, to read the contents of your web traffic.
Additional benefits of using a VPN is it hides you from your ISP as you connect to the VPN server. The ISP can see that you’ve established a VPN connection, but it cannot see the contents of your web traffic, as it’s encrypted.
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2. Try a specialized browser
Using specialized browsers like Tor Browser is beneficial for a variety of reasons. Using the Tor browser jumps your internet connections through various nodes, making it difficult for your ISP to track you. Tor is slightly slower than something like the Epic Privacy Browser, which is built on the Chromium platform similar to Google Chrome.
Epic Privacy Browser offers privacy features such as a do not track headers. It hides your IP address through a built-in proxy, blocks plug-ins and third-party cookies and doesn’t retain history. It can also detect and block ad networks, social networks, and web analytics.
3. Browse secure sites only
Websites that use HTTP do not protect visitors and aren’t secure. Whereas HTTPS, or hypertext transfer protocol secure, encrypt the website’s contents, making it difficult for your activities to be intercepted.
If a site doesn’t have HTTPS, you can always try the browser extension HTTPS Everywhere to secure your privacy as it automatically switches HTTP websites to HTTPS.
4. Stay away from public Wi-Fi that isn’t secure
If you’re a public Wi-Fi user, you are putting yourself at risk. With ISPs having the ability to sell your browsing history to anyone, subjects using unrestricted Wi-Fi are more at danger of information gathering.
5. Don’t check-in or tag your location
If you’re tempted to check in to your favorite restaurant or any other place that allows that sort of thing, don’t, as your location is likely being tracked by your network provider. Where you choose to spend your time can reveal a lot of personal information that could be used to target you. So avoid tagging your location everywhere you go.