As explained in our article on the benefits of using VPNs, this kind of software is the most effective measure to take against being tracked online. However, no matter how strong that protection is, there is always someone watching what you do online – your Internet Service Provider (ISP). We are sure that many of you are wondering what kinds of information can your ISP track, and how deep it can go into your private files? Also, you might be wondering how effective VPNs are, and can VPN be tracked by ISPs? So, let’s answer all those questions.
Can VPN Be Tracked by ISPs? – Short Answer
No matter where in the world you are, you need an ISP to connect to the Web. This means that those companies handle all your outgoing and incoming traffic, and they can see what you do online. If you add a VPN to this equation, you will simply hide your files – you won’t hide the fact that you’re using a VPN.
In other words, ISPs can track VPN applications. However, you must know that they don’t know what you do using your VPN. We’re talking about highly encrypted data that ISPs can’t crack. Therefore, a reliable VPN will keep you anonymous online.
Everything You Need to Know About ISP Tracking
Now, let’s talk about the specifics. We’ll explain why and how ISPs track your data, the role of VPN applications, and how to ultimately make sure no one can track you online. Let’s jump right in.
Why Is Your ISP Tracking Your Online Activity?
There are quite a few reasons why ISP collect your personal data. However, all of those can be categorized into two groups.
First, ISPs take advantage of data collection for their own personal gain. Just imagine having a database showing what different user groups do online – what kinds of files they download, what kinds of websites they visit, how often they shop online, and more. This is highly valuable data – especially for marketing companies and different kinds of statistics-related companies. What’s important to note here is that ISPs can’t sell very specific data, like revealing your name and what you do online. They do that via anonymous Web browsing logs.
Then, ISPs are often obligated to keep your data on their servers for a while. This is how they can provide that data to the police department or different kinds of government agencies. This data can only be provided with a subpoena, which means that there needs to be a justifiable cause. Once that happens, your ISP is legally required to hand over any information they have on you.
Why Should You Care About ISP Tracking?
You are probably thinking right now that tracking imposed by your ISP isn’t such a big deal. After all, companies like Google and Facebook are doing the same – and maybe in an even more aggressive manner. For example, Facebook tracks non-registered users and Google monitors offline purchases as well. So, should you care about your ISP tracking, especially if you don’t mind seeing a few more targeted ads?
Let’s start with some personal reasons why you should care about this. You have probably visited a few websites before that you don’t want your boyfriend, girlfriend, or your family to find out about. Maybe you’re concerned about your health and spend some time browsing signs of different medical conditions. Do you want your health insurance provider to know about this?
Now, let’s talk about more ominous tracking. Those living in countries with oppressive governments can be in grave danger due to ISP collecting their data. This can endanger your freedom and even get you in trouble. The bottom line is, why would you want anyone to know your personal stuff?
What Can Your ISP See & Know About You?
As you are about to see, ISPs collect plenty of data. The good news is that VPNs can protect you in most of these cases. Take a look.
- ISPs collect all your Web browsing. This includes the exact websites you visit, as well as any information you supply to those websites including your usernames and passwords. Furthermore, they know how many times you’ve visited a certain website, how long you’ve been there and what kinds of files you’ve downloaded. For online shopping websites, ISPs know what you’ve bought and your payment information as well. When it comes to media streaming websites, they know what kinds of content you like to watch.
- The contents of your emails are collected. To make sure your privacy is protected, numerous popular email providers are switching to more secure protocols. One of those is called Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption. Needless to say, all your data is collected if your ISP is your email provider.
- Your P2P traffic is being heavily monitored. You already know that torrenting is not something that many ISPs approve. While some actively block torrent websites and throttle P2P applications, other ISPs track your torrenting activities and they can serve copyright infringement notices.
- ISPs monitor Bitcoin transaction as well. You can read online that Bitcoin transactions are 100% anonymous. However, ISPs can easily track Bitcoin clients and they can see if you’re using this or any other digital payment method.
How to Stop Your ISP From Tracking You?
Everything we said above applies to regular connections that are not encrypted. By not encrypting your Web traffic data, you leave it open for your ISP to collect and extract the information their want. Therefore, the best way to be protected is by using a VPN – because these applications often bring military-grade encryption.
In case you didn’t know, VPNs route your Web traffic through their own secure servers. Your data leaves those servers fully encrypted, and completely hidden from your ISP. Even though your Internet provider will see that you’re using a VPN because your Web traffic is scrambled and unreadable, they won’t know what you actually do online.
Can VPN Be Tracked & Blocked by ISPs?
As said in our short answer at the top of this article, the answer is – yes. However, things are never that simple, so let’s take a deeper look at this question.
When it comes to tracking, every ISP on the planet can easily see that you’re using a VPN. Now, this typically isn’t a problem, even though there are countries that have banned VPNs. However, you will not get in trouble even in the most restrictive of countries unless you use a VPN for a criminal activity. Therefore, it’s safe to say that using a VPN won’t get you in trouble. The fact that your ISP can track your VPN usage should not be a concern.
When it comes to VPN blocking, the situation is similar to what we've previously said. Using a VPN is your right to protect your private and sensitive information – therefore, it’s a tool that you have every right to use. And this also why ISPs can’t block VPN applications. Of course, there are some exceptions out there. For example, Russia is battling VPNs by trying to block them, just as it’s doing with pirate websites.
Are VPNs the Best Way to Stop ISP Tracking?
There is plenty that can be done to preserve your online anonymity. For example, you can use an anonymous Web browser or switch to an anonymous email provider. However, even though these actions can be helpful, none of them beats VPNs.
In the center of every VPN provider is a wide network of servers. These are highly secure servers designed to do a few things. First of all, they get you an all-new IP address, which is how you can visit websites that were blocked previously. Then, they encrypt your Web traffic and make it unreadable by just about anyone else. As such, they cover all incoming and outgoing Web traffic – as long as they are active.
If you’d like to learn more about this type of software, you can start by reading our guide to VPN applications. For more in-depth information, read how VPNs work. And let's also not forget that we have a comprehensive overview of the best VPN providers right now - after testing 50+ VPNs for ourselves.
Dear readers, that would be all we’ve prepared on the topic of ‘Can VPN be tracked by ISP’. We hope that we answered all your questions. If there’s anything else you’d like to know, please post a comment below.
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