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 truly tough actions 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 is 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.
The 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 also access geographic locations, financial data, health data, download actions, private emails, conversations, spouse and children’s info, and whatever else they can discover. What's disturbing is, due to FTC laws, 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.
Options for actual incognito browsing
1) Use a VPN
A virtual private network (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, however, see that you've established a VPN connection but they cannot see the contents of your web traffic, as it's encrypted.
2) Specialized browsers
Using specialized browsers like Tor Browser is beneficial for a variety of reasons. Using the Tor browser, it 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, it 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 Websites with HTTPS & Use HTTPS Everywhere
Websites that use HTTP do not protect visitors and aren't secure. Whereas HTTPS, or hypertext transfer protocol secure, encrypt the contents of the website 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) Use Extensions
You can utilize extensions to your browser such as HTTPS Everywhere, and various ad-blockers such as AdBlock Plus or AdGuard AdBlocker to secure your online privacy. These are tools in stopping intrusive advertisements and they're readily available on all major web browsers.
5) Stay Away from Public Wi-Fi that isn't secure
If you're a public Wi-Fi user, you may be 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.
6) 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 you may not want to be targeted towards you. So avoid tagging your location everywhere you go.
7) Get a Strong Internet Security Suite
If you don't have an internet security suite, it can be beneficial. Not against ISPs, but the intrusive and malicious ads that exploit your privacy. These suites can block spyware, ransomware, trojans, viruses, and other forms of malware from infecting your computer.
In conclusion, internet service providers can store logs of your private history for quite some time. For instance, Comcast doesn't give a time duration of how long they keep data. Time Warner stores data and IP logs for up to 6 months, Verizon for up to 18 months, AT&T keeps them for almost a year, and Charter stores their data for 1 year.
Securing your internet connected devices should be your primary concern with the series of data theft going on, and we hope these ideas help keep you safe and protected on the internet.
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