Your ISP Knows a Lot About You: Should You Be Worried?


Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) serves as your gateway to the internet. It handles all your internet traffic and, as a result, can technically see everything you do online. While you can take steps to hide your browsing history and prevent websites from tracking your online activity, your ISP can actually still monitor what you do on the internet.


Even though you may hardly give any thought to your Internet Service Provider or what it does, it actually knows a lot about you. Should you be worried, though? Let’s look at what data ISPs can actually collect and what they can do with it. We’ll also consider ways you can protect your online privacy.


What Data Can ISPs Collect?

The amount of data your ISP can see and collect depends on whether your traffic is encrypted or not. If you access unencrypted websites, your ISP can see the URLs, and the content of the web pages you visit. These websites use the unencrypted HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) protocol rather than the HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) protocol which adds an SSL layer for encryption.


ISPs can also see any sensitive information entered on these unencrypted websites such as login details and payment information. Also, if your email service provider doesn’t support TLS (Transport Layer Security) encryption, your ISP will likely be able to see the contents of your emails. ISPs can even know whether you use torrents to download files and if you use Bitcoin.


In order to protect your data from being viewed by your ISP, you should use a good VPN. A VPN service will encrypt your web traffic and prevent your ISP from tracking your online activity and seeing the domains you visit. If you’re wondering which VPN service is right for you, check out this review of NordVPN.


If, on the other hand, your traffic data is encrypted, your ISP still has access to the non-encrypted data that accompanies the encrypted traffic. Using this data, it can still learn a lot about your activities online. For example, while your ISP cannot see the exact URL of the page you’re on, it can see what domain you are on. ISPs can figure this out from requests to their DNS (Domain Name System) servers.


But what exactly can ISPs do with your data? For one thing, ISPs can sell your data to advertising companies who can then use such data to deliver targeted ads based on your interests. ISPs may also be required by the government or law enforcement agencies to provide access to your browsing data. And in this age of data breaches, your data might not be safe with your ISP.


Clearly, you do have reason to be worried about your online privacy in the hands of your ISP. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to protect your private data from being collected by your ISP.


How to Protect Your Online Privacy

While you likely can’t totally prevent your ISP from seeing and collecting your data, you can limit its ability to do so. Keep in mind, however, that turning on incognito browsing in your browser won’t hide your browsing history from your ISP. Here are a couple of ways you can control the information your ISP can access.


First, you want to ensure that the majority of your internet traffic is encrypted. To do this, make sure that you only visit sites that use the HTTPS protocol. This prevents your ISP from seeing the URLs and content of the pages you visit. You should also get the HTTPS Everywhere extension for Chrome and Firefox to ensure that your data is always encrypted before it is transferred over the internet.


As we mentioned earlier, you can also use VPNs and proxy services to mask your online activity from your ISP. However, you should be careful to ensure that the VPN service you choose doesn’t keep its own logs of your activity. You should also ensure that your email service has TLS encryption and doesn’t keep track of your messages.


Another way to keep your personal details secure is by browsing the web anonymously with the Tor browser. The Tor Network encrypts your traffic data and relays it across a network of servers before it emerges from an exit node which could be in any location around the world. This makes it very difficult for anyone to trace your internet activity back to your computer.



Since your ISP is basically your link to the internet, you can’t completely prevent it from seeing what you do online. However, you can make it harder for it to track your activities online by ensuring that your traffic is encrypted, using a VPN or proxy service, or using the Tor Network.