If I Use a VPN, Can My ISP Track What I Download?

If you’re concerned about your online privacy, there’s only one tool that can put your worries at rest. And yes, we are talking about VPN services. They hide you from many online threats, and that includes online tracking as well, letting you regain your right to privacy. However, there’s one question that often floats around the Web, asking – if I use a VPN, can my ISP track what I download?

The short answer is – no, your ISP won't get to track your online activities if you use a VPN, and that applies to downloading data. However, to understand this situation fully, we need to take a bit deeper look. So, join us, and we'll answer all your questions.

What Does My ISP See When I Use a VPN? 

You’ve probably heard that VPNs encrypt your Web data using various technologies (whose central part is VPN protocols). That means VPNs indeed boost your privacy and security online – but they don't simply "delete" your Web data. That data is still out there, so you're probably wondering what exactly an ISP can see in that case? Here's what, precisely:

  • Your VPN Connection: Yes, your ISP can see that you’re using a VPN. However, unless VPNs are banned in your country, there’s nothing to worry about as they're legal and safe to use. 
  • Your VPN’s IP Address: Each time you connect to a VPN server, you get a new IP address. Your ISP will see that, but it won’t see the final destination of your data packets. 
  • Your VPN Protocol: Even though an ISP can see which VPN protocol you use, your VPN data is end-to-end encrypted. So, your data is kept safe, after all. 
  • Your VPN Connection Timestamps: Your ISP will see when you connect to a server and how long you're using it. Therefore, timestamps are created.
  • Your VPN Bandwidth Usage: And lastly, your ISP will know if you resort to high-bandwidth activities when using a VPN - but once again, no actual data is revealed.

Tip

If you’d like to take a much deeper look into the kinds of data your ISP sees when using a VPN, make sure to click on the provided link. Besides that, we recommend reading about how your ISP might be tricking you (and how a VPN can help). And also, here’s how to bypass ISP throttling.

Can My ISP See That I Download Files (When Using a VPN)?

As you can see just above, we’ve noted that your ISP can see that you download files. So, that part is true – and there’s no way to bypass that, even with a VPN.

However, it's important here is to understand what 'downloading files' means. As soon as you connect to the Web and interact with any website, you start to download and upload files simultaneously. For a website to load, your device downloads bits of information to display the content you're trying to see.

Of course, we’re aware of what the majority of people consider when talking about download files. That would refer to downloading actual data from the Internet onto your computer, like downloading music, songs, photos, documents, software, and more.

Now, here’s the crucial piece of this puzzle. Your ISP will know that you download files, but that’s where its insight ends. To learn why, make sure to check how VPNs work, where you'll see that a VPN breaks down data into small packets, which are encrypted and whose contents no one can see (except for you, of course).

Can My ISP See the Contents of My Downloads (When Using a VPN)?

No, your ISP won’t be able to see the contents of your downloads. As said just above, since your data is broken down into small packets, your ISP won’t get to make any sense out of that data.

As you can see, your ISP knows that you’re using a VPN service, and it also knows if you’ve transferred a lot of data during a single VPN session. However, that information doesn't allow your ISP to intrude on your privacy. After all, if you download 5GB of data using a single VPN session, nobody will know if you've watched a season of a TV show or if you've downloaded 5GB worth of photos.

With that said, if you use a VPN, your ISP will know that you download files, but it won't see what you download. That would be the best possible answer to the question we raised at the beginning of this article.

Tip

We’d like to let you know that everything said above applies to your Web browsing history as well, which is kept within a VPN tunnel, out of anyone’s reach. To learn more about that, here’s how VPNs hide your Web browsing history from your ISP.

Hopefully, you got the answer that you needed. And with that said, know that your downloads will be safe from your ISP – if you use a VPN. Thanks for reading – and if you have any questions for us, feel free to post them below.

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