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What can your ISP learn about you?

BY READERS DIGEST

21st Feb 2022 Technology

What can your ISP learn about you?
Everyone who wants to access the internet must choose an Internet Service Provider.
However, clients might have little knowledge about how these companies deal with their data. After all, ISPs can access almost anything they want: they support each activity you perform.
The downsides include the fact that some ISPs can monetize the data they get to collect about you.
Suppose your ISP is reached by a company with a splendid deal of targeting ads to a group of people based on their demographics. In some countries, ISPs can come into such agreements legally. Thus, your data will become the tool entities use to make money.
So, your ISP might be sharing information about your browsing activities with various partners. Let's see exactly what they can see and how to hide your actions from them.

What online activity can your ISP see?

When it comes to online monitoring of user activity, ISPs can monitor countless things. These things can be limited by the data you share on the web and your IP address.
For example, if you haven’t shared any of your personal data online, the scope of tracking reduces for the internet service provider. In such a case, the online activity that is visible to your service provider is:
  • The URLs that you visit on the web.
  • The pages that you visit most frequently.
  • The time you spend on the pages.
  • Your online habits.
Note: If an ISP sees your online activity like the sites you visited, they will only be able to see the domain of the website. For instance, if the website link is www.abcd.com/page123/page2, the ISP can only see the www.abcd.com part of the link, nothing more than that.
On the other hand, if you have shared some of your personal data on the web like on social media websites like Facebook, the ISP will be able to see the following details:
  • Your personal relationships.
  • Your contact info. And your location.
  • Your social media data.

How can ISPs monitor your browsing?

The answer to this is simple enough that even a child can understand it. Your ISP can monitor your browsing activity by using various techniques such as:

1. DNS leaks

DNS leaks are caused when your browser connects to websites using the DNS servers provided by your ISP instead of using a DNS service like Google DNS or Cloudflare. It allows your ISP to monitor your web traffic and see which websites you visit.

2. Traffic analyzers

ISPs also use traffic analyzers to monitor the network traffic coming into and out of their networks. These analyzers can identify specific types of traffic, such as BitTorrent traffic, and then throttle or block that traffic if necessary.

3. Deep Packet Inspection

Deep packet inspection (DPI) is the process of intercepting all the packets flowing in a network and looking for specific data within those packets. Then, based on what was found, take further action such as throttling or blocking traffic to websites you visit. It can even throttle or block protocols like BitTorrent or VPNs.

4. Legal requests

ISPs are required to follow legal requests from governments from time to time, whether it's for user information they keep on file or any other details they may have collected about users over the years. In rare cases, ISPs may even be ordered to monitor their customers’ Internet activities without telling directly.

Is there any way to counteract this issue?

It is not valid if we tell you that there is a way to move the ISP out of the loop entirely. However, there are some ways to limit the intervening of your ISP.
Use a good VPN. A Virtual Private Network can be a great option to ensure that all your web interactions are secure and private. It encrypts all your traffic and ensures that no one gets to know what you did online. The robust encryption also stops ISPs from learning their users’ online habits. Additionally, they will not be able to track your IP address (location) accurately. After all, your IP address will change as soon as you connect to a VPN server.
Use a private browser. Private browsers are another medium to keep you off the grid of ISPs. Private browsers like Tor, Brave, DuckDuckGo do not store your data or history. Tor provides you with a protected IP address so that you can browse anonymously. However, it can be relatively slow, meaning that your browsing won't be as fast as you are accustomed to.
Use HTTPS: The S in the HTTPS makes sure that your data is encrypted before transfer. You can use an extension named HTTPS Everywhere in your browser to do this. However, some browsers have such features built into their systems. Thus, it might not even be necessary to download a separate extension.

Conclusion

In short, you need to be very careful about your online behavior and the websites you visit. Using private browsers and VPNs is an excellent way to ensure that nothing but good goes on the internet. Even your ISP won't know what you are up to!
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