Can Your ISP See Your Browsing History?

isp browsing history

Nowadays, most of us can not go hours without connecting to the internet. With how dependent we are on the internet, online privacy is paramount.

Despite your best efforts to protect your privacy, your ISP can still see everything you do online. They can keep tabs on things like the websites you visit, the time you spend there, the videos you watch, the devices you are using, and your location.

In this article, we will look at ISP tracking. We will also look at how you can keep your information private with a VPN.

What is an ISP?

Your ISP is your internet service provider. They grant you online access and give you an IP address, which helps the internet send content and information to and from your device.

Your ISP receives and processes all of your internet traffic. Therefore, your ISP has complete control over all of your traffic data and can see your browsing history.

Even years after using their services, most ISPs still retain your browsing history and other information. While the government compels some ISPs to store your data, others do it for personal gain. Additionally, even though most of them claim that they never misuse your information or sell it to third parties, you can see in the small print of their privacy rules that they really “share” your data.

Also, several ISPs sell anonymous browsing records to marketing firms. They can get away with it for a few vague reasons, such as “enhancing user experience.”

Some groups can also access your data like the police department or another government body, depending on your ISP. Your ISP is legally compelled to share whatever data they have on you if they get a subpoena.

Reasons ISPs Spy on You

Below are some of the key reasons ISPs spy on you:

  1. Advertising Purposes

The most successful businesses in the world offer their product to internet users using their personal information. So it’s hardly surprising that ISPs use their position to strike lucrative deals with businesses and marketing firms in a world where data is the new currency for power and wealth.

Advertisers often claim that providing more relevant advertising enhances the user experience. However, this isn’t necessarily true from the perspective of the user. When adverts based on your browsing history appear, they might seem intrusive and even a little creepy.

2. Government and Law Requirements

Laws sometimes require ISPs to monitor and archive internet traffic information of residents and visitors in a particular nation. This may include the websites you browse, emails, messages, searches, and operating systems. Conservative governments often enact such laws to prevent terrorism and other national security threats. However, totalitarian regimes use this excuse to control their citizens.

3. Censorship

Various factors make governments impose access restrictions on certain online platforms. For instance, a website can be restricted in certain nations or areas if it promotes violence and criticizes the leadership of a nation. In addition, the government can restrict some websites because it supports activities that are offensive to a specific religion, such as pornographic or gambling websites.

Therefore, governments use ISPs to control the kind of content that reaches (and affects) their population and to enforce such bans. North Korea, Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, and Belarus are some nations with strong censorship laws.

 4. Managing Network Traffic

Some ISPs regulate their internet traffic speeds. They may choose to reduce the speed of their service for certain websites based on consumers’ historical data use on such websites. Usually, sites like Netflix, YouTube, and others demand quick download times and plenty of data use.

ISPs  allegedly regulate data flow and lessen congestion by doing this. This is known as bandwidth throttling. It’s less frequent today than it formerly was because of complaints from previous consumers about the poor network services that throttling causes. 

Using a VPN to Enhance Your Privacy

Use a virtual private network (VPN) to avoid your internet service provider recording your online activity.

A VPN encrypts your data by bouncing it between its servers. So, your ISP can see that you are browsing because VPNs do not prevent ISPs from detecting internet activity. However, the ISP cannot see what you are doing online as the VPN encrypts all your data. Even the likelihood that the government could decipher this data is pretty slim if you’re using a top-notch VPN.

Therefore, your government could attempt to get the information from your VPN provider. However, because VPNs are exempt from the same regulations as ISPs, most VPN providers do not store your browsing data. A decent VPN provider will have a “no logging” policy, which ensures that no data is ever kept and is thus unavailable to the authorities.

Another benefit of using a VPN is that it masks your IP address and replaces it with one from a location of your choice. This implies that while going overseas, you can get around geo-restrictions on websites that provide streaming services, gaming, gambling, etc. And your ISP cannot know that you are bypassing such restrictions. 

How to Use a VPN

Using a VPN is pretty straightforward. You just have to follow these steps:

  1. Select a VPN that protects your privacy. We suggest ExpressVPN. It has a proven track record that offers strong encryption, first-rate VPN protocols, leak protection, a kill switch, and obfuscation.
  2. Create an account and pay for any of the premium plans. Take note of your new username and password.
  3. On your device, download and install the VPN app.
  4. Launch the app on your device, then log in.
  5. Select a VPN server and click Connect. Any server will work to obscure your digital trail but choose servers carefully for a better VPN experience.

Now, you can browse the internet as usual, but your ISP won’t be able to watch your activity or see your browsing history.


You should secure your online activities from your ISP if you respect your privacy and do not want to take any chances with your online data. A VPN can protect your online data, including browsing history, from your ISP and other prying eyes. Therefore, you should consider getting a trustworthy VPN service if you value your online privacy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can my VPN provider see my data?

Yes, VPN service providers can see your online activity and data. Since they are disguising your activities, the VPN provider has a complete picture of everything you do online. So, every free or questionable VPN service you use likely sells your data.

Can I be tracked when using a VPN?

It is almost impossible to be tracked when you use a high-quality VPN service with strong encryption capabilities and a no-logs policy. A trustworthy VPN encrypts your data while routing it via a VPN server. In addition, these VPNs have a no-logs policy that ensures your browser history is kept private.

Can I use a free VPN to prevent my ISP from monitoring my online activities?

We generally do not recommend free VPNs, particularly if you want to use them for privacy. While browsing, they could let you access certain blocked websites. Still, they are often not powerful enough to handle some of your more data-intensive activities, such as streaming and gaming.

They often find other methods to make money because you aren’t paying for their service. These VPNs make money in ways like pelting you with adverts, selling your data, or even infecting you with malware.

Can I use Incognito Mode to hide my browsing history from my ISP?

Incognito mode is inappropriate for this purpose. It will, at best, disable cookies and stop browsers from keeping track of your online actions. However, your IP address will still be visible to websites, and your ISP will still be able to view your surfing history.

Is it legal for ISPs to track users’ data?

Unfortunately, many countries are adopting mandatory data retention rules, making it acceptable and sometimes even required for ISPs to hold and share customer data. These rules might vary greatly from one nation to the next. The best action is to confirm what law permits in your nation.

Can my ISP know I am using a VPN to bypass Censorship?

When you use a VPN, your ISP cannot see the contents of your internet traffic or determine where it is going to or coming from. Since you’ll have a new IP address and your data will be encrypted, your ISP could be aware that you’re using a VPN, but not for what reasons. This implies that your browser history and search information are fully confidential.

Can I be detained because of the information on my internet history?

Yes, based on the legal framework in your nation, the police enforcement ask your ISP for information about your browsing history to aid in investigating a crime. These crimes include child abuse, extortion, stalking, internet harassment, money fraud, and breaking copyright rules. Again, however, it all depends on the rules of your nation.