Too often, these days, browsing or using the internet comes at a cost. Though ISPs were barred from selling information at one time, a joint resolution in Congress changed that. Now, ISPs have the ability to take your internet traffic and sell it to the highest bidder. Of course, that information can be quite valuable. Since your ISP can see everywhere you go online, it has all sorts of information on you. These include your browsing habits, search and browser history, downloaded and uploaded files, and the information you type into unencrypted websites. However, you can change that when you connect to a VPN. Here are some good options.
The answer to the question is no, your ISP can’t see your browser history or search history when you connect to a VPN. Whenever you search or browse the internet, your request passes through your internet service provider. However, when you use a VPN, it creates an encrypted tunnel for your data. The VPN places itself in the middle between you and your ISP. Of course, the next question you could ask is “If my ISP can’t see my browser history, what does it see?”
What ISPs can see
ISPs can still see several things when you connect to a VPN. These include:
- VPN usage – Your ISP can see that you are using a VPN, however, it can’t tell what exactly you’re looking at. in other words, it only sees connections going to the VPN server instead of the specifics.
- Connection timestamps – Since your VPN is not always on, the ISP sees when you connect.
- VPN protocol you’re using – Unless you use port forwarding, your ISP can tell what protocol you’re using. That’s because each protocol uses a specific and unique port. The exception to this is port 443. Industry standards designate that port for HTTPS communications and secure transfers. If port 443 is not available for some reason, port 80 will take over to send HTTPS traffic.
- Amount of data you transfer – ISPs track your data transfer and bandwidth consumption. That said, the amount can be off due to encryption overhead. If you’re using a high amount of data, you might consider forwarding your port to 443 or an alternative if available. Sometimes, ISPs will throttle your internet based on your traffic, in an attempt to discourage you.
- Encrypted data (jibberish) – If the ISP does look at your data, all it will see is the encrypted information.
- Your real IP address – Even though VPNs will hide your IP address from websites you visit, your ISP knows your real IP address. Usually, that’s because it assigns your IP address to you.
A quick word of caution about browser history
Using a VPN will stop your ISP from seeing your downloads, streaming activities, torrenting, and more. If you are trying to stay anonymous, a VPN is a good way to do it. However, there is one thing you need to keep in mind. If you are searching or browsing and signed in to a search or browser like Google or Bing, they can still see where you’ve been. You may need to take extra steps for those browsers and searches or use a different option.
Things to consider when choosing a VPN for privacy protection
When choosing a VPN for this case, the factors you need to consider are pretty straightforward. They are:
- Next-generation encryption – Finding a VPN with next-generation protocols is common, but still necessary. The ones to look for are Lightway (exclusive to ExpressVPN), WireGuard, IKEv2, and OpenVPN. Of those, you’ll find Lightway and WireGuard to be the fastest in the community.
- Advanced features – Advanced features are essential, especially if you are trying to keep your browsing and searching safe from your ISP. The best option to look for is a kill switch. If your connection drops unexpectedly, you can have faith that the kill switch will stop your internet traffic until the VPN reconnects. Although not necessary, port forwarding is also a solid option.
- Strict no-logs policy – ISPs don’t care for these, because it stops them from being able to get your information. When a company has this type of policy, they don’t keep any logs on you and can’t turn anything over if they are compelled to.
- High network stability – Though kill switches are nice if the connection drops, providers with high network stability often don’t have to worry about that.
Note: all of the VPNs mentioned in this post offer 30-day money back guarantees which is plenty of time to test them.