A capable VPN service can hide many things – including your location, personal data, your IP address, and plenty more. After all, a VPN is the best possible tool for achieving complete online anonymity. However, we know what you're wondering – does a VPN hide your browsing history from your ISP?
If you want a short answer – then, yes. A VPN does indeed hide your Web browsing history from your Internet service provider. Still, before you enable your VPN and let it run in the background, it's wise to take a deeper look at how this whole setup works. So, here's everything that you need to know.
Should I Try to Hide My Browsing History From My ISP? Why?
Yes, you should hide your browsing history from your ISP. That's the only way to preserve your privacy online, which is something you should truly care about.
You’ve probably heard numerous stories in the past about the control ISPs have over our Web connections. For example, some ISPs are using personal data for marketing purposes, others have enrolled in privacy-intruding anti-piracy efforts, and there are those that are outright censoring the Web. Some ISPs are even battling VPN services - but without much success.
All of that is possible because ISPs have a complete and unrestricted insight into what their customers and users do on the Internet. With that said, you probably wonder how is it legal for ISPs to intrude on their customers' privacy? Well, that's possible because the law allows for such practices.
For example, we have the all-encompassing Freedom Act in the United States (renewed in May 2020). That set of laws instructs ISPs to collect telecommunications metadata, Web tracking data, Web site data, and Web browser sync data. Therefore, it wouldn’t be an understatement to say that you have absolutely no privacy on the Internet.
Can My ISP Still See My Browsing History - Even If I Delete It?
Yes, your ISP can still see your Web browsing history even if you delete it (no matter if you delete it locally from your computer or even via a router).
The reason for that is the following. Internet service providers must comply with their home country's laws. And yes, data retention is a common practice across the world, applying to Internet service providers and other data processing companies.
Each country has its data retention laws. However, speaking in general, ISPs are forced to retain data and logs from 6 to 12 months. As soon as you do anything on the Web, a record is created and stored on your ISP's server – and there's no way for you to delete that data.
So, Does a VPN Hide My Browsing History From My ISP?
Yes, a capable and trustworthy VPN can hide your Internet browsing history from your ISP. In fact, a VPN is perhaps the only tool capable of doing that effectively.
Each VPN service comes with a set of VPN protocols. When combined with end-to-end encryption, this creates an incredibly secure tunnel for your incoming and outgoing data. In simple terms, a VPN breaks down and obscures your Web data packets, which makes them unreadable to any third party online, and that includes your Internet provider.
Technically, your IPS can still collect your data transmitted through the VPN tunnel you create. However, keep in mind that we're talking about encrypted data. Furthermore, we're talking about the highest possible level of commercially available encryption (which is something that practically any reputable VPN offers). So, even if your ISP collects your data, it won't be able to read it or take advantage of it in any way.
What Exactly Does My ISP See When I Use a VPN?
When you start using a VPN, your Internet traffic doesn’t magically disappear from the Web. It’s still there – but it’s hidden incredibly well. With that said, here’s what your ISP will see once you connect to a secure VPN server:
- Your IP address. After all, your ISP assigns you an IP address, and you have to have one to connect to the Web. However, that information alone doesn’t provide much data to your Internet provider.
- The IP address of the VPN server you’re using. In other words, your ISP will see that you're using a VPN service. However, that's pretty much it. Your ISP won't know what you do on the Internet.
- The data transmitted through your VPN tunnel. Once again, we're talking about encrypted data here. Your ISP will know if you download and upload a lot of data, but it won't see the contents of your VPN tunnel since it's encrypted.
Aside from the above said, your ISP will also get to know specific tidbits about your VPN connection (such as the VPN protocol you use). However, not a single byte will point to your online activities, nor will it reveal any personally identifiable data.
Will I Get in Trouble for Hiding My Search History From My ISP?
No, you won’t get in trouble for hiding your search history from your ISP. That’s because you still have your right to privacy, no matter where in the world you’re located.
It's important to understand that you aren't obligated to provide your Web search history to your ISP. However, your ISP is obligated to collect it. With that said, you have every right to protect your digital privacy using any means available.
Who Else Can See My Browsing History When Using a VPN?
Aside from your Internet service provider and various third parties, there's someone else who can see your Web browsing history. And that would be your VPN.
If you decide to re-route your Web traffic through a VPN server, know that your VPN can act just like your ISP – having a complete insight into what you do online and creating different kinds of logs. Of course, that isn’t the situation with every VPN out there. And also, that’s why we recommend you to be very picky when choosing a VPN service.
What you need is a 'no logs' VPN service. Those VPNs come with privacy-respecting policies, and more importantly – they've allowed being audited by independent parties in the past. Almost every reputable VPN is a 'no logs' VPN. However, we have ExpressVPN, NordVPN, ProtonVPN, PureVPN, TunnelBear, and more when it comes to some of the notable examples.
For more information on which VPNs you should choose, take a look at our comprehensive overview of the best 'no logs' VPN services.
To summarize – yes, a good VPN hides your browsing history from your ISP. And furthermore, the best VPNs out there make you entirely and fully anonymous on the Internet, letting you regain your control over your privacy. Thanks for reading – and in case you have any questions, make sure to post them via the comments section below.