Can My ISP See & Track Me Through A VPN?
Your country’s law determines your internet service provider’s (ISP) right to sell your data. In the US, a Senate joint resolution repealed the FCC rule banning telecommunication companies from selling browsing data without permission.
This means your ISP has the right to store and sell your full browsing history, whether you use incognito mode or not. Nothing you do online in the US is private unless you take extra steps to make it so.
Thankfully, you can stop your data from getting to your ISP with a VPN. A VPN keeps your online activities private by encrypting your online activity, which keeps it safe from snoopers.
Table of ContentsWhat Is an ISP and Why Can It Track Everything I Do Online?
What Your ISP Can See
Can My ISP Track Me Through a VPN?
What Is an ISP and Why Can It Track Everything I Do Online?
Your ISP is the company that gives you access to the internet. It makes it possible for you to go online so you can conduct business and connect with friends. Some ISPs provide additional services such as email services and web hosting.
ISPs can link your devices and identity to everything on the internet. When you access a website, download a file, or go on social media, your connection goes through your ISP’s server before it gets to the destination. This allows them to see all your online activity… if you’re not using a VPN, that is.
What Your ISP Can See
When you connect to the internet through your ISP, they can see everything you do. This includes:
👉Websites you visit
👉Time you spend browsing
👉Files you download and upload
👉Information you type, including messages
Why Does My ISP Track Me?
In the US, your browsing data can be a revenue stream for your ISP. They can compile and sell your data to marketing companies, or use it internally to inform their practices and make their service more appealing to potential customers, like you. If your ISP sees you’re using too much bandwidth, they may choose to throttle your connection.
ISP tracking also facilitates censorship and government surveillance. If your ISP tracks everything you do online, it can also enable the government, including the police, to see the same information. In some countries, a court order isn’t even necessary to gain access to your data.
ISPs are required to store your data for a certain period and they must provide it to the authorities upon request. Data collected may be used to conduct investigations and identify potential criminals.
Do Some ISPs Track More Than Others?
Some ISPs use surveillance more heavily, especially in countries with high degrees of censorship, like China.
In high-censorship countries, the government may place tight controls on how people access the internet, and which sites they can access. They do this by monitoring users’ online habits, by filtering what can be accessed, and by regulating access.
In areas with censorship, ISPs often track users’ behavior and traffic, to block potential access to blocklisted sites. The level of restriction can go as far as the government regulating what type of content may or may not be published.
Does Incognito Browsing Prevent ISP Tracking?
Incognito mode doesn’t prevent your ISP from tracking you. Incognito mode is designed to prevent websites from using your cookies to identify you. It stops your browser from storing or auto-filling your searches.
This doesn’t stop websites from seeing your IP address, though. And your ISP can still see all your browsing activity.
Why Use a VPN?
A VPN encrypts all the traffic coming to and leaving your device to keep your online activities private, even from your ISP. This means all your data is encrypted and routed through the VPN’s server so nobody can see what you’re doing online. Even if your traffic is intercepted by third parties, like your ISP, they can’t read it.
PIA uses military-grade VPN encryption to keep your information hidden from watchful eyes. When you connect to one of our VPN servers, we mask your IP address and wrap your internet traffic in unbreakable code, so you can browse privately online. With your IP address hidden, you can use PIA to surf the web safely and unblock websites on restricted networks, free from surveillance.
We also follow a strict No Logs policy, which means we never record or store your online activities. So, even if a request is made by the authorities to turn over your data, we don’t have anything to show.
PIA has a global network of secure servers, so you can choose a server in your city to access localized websites or a server from another country to access platforms that may be blocked in your region. Get PIA to keep your data hidden from your ISP — it’s risk free with a 30-day money-back guarantee. And with unlimited simultaneous connections, you can browse privately on every device you own!
Can My ISP Track Me Through a VPN?
Your ISP can see you’re connected to a VPN and the amount of traffic traveling to and from your device. They know your actual traffic is hidden because you’re using a VPN, but they can’t see exactly what you’re doing.
When you use a VPN, it reroutes your traffic through DNS servers, which essentially keeps your DNS requests hidden from your ISP. So, if you head over to a restricted website like Facebook, for example, your DNS request is routed through the VPN’s encrypted server, rather than straight to your ISP. Since they can’t see you’re trying to access Facebook, they can’t block you.
Your ISP will see you’re connected to a specific IP and that your traffic is encrypted, and may infer that you’re using a VPN. But if you’re located somewhere where VPNs are legal, then your ISP can’t do anything to stop you browsing.
If you use a VPN with obfuscation, the fact you’re using a VPN is also hidden from your ISP. Obfuscated servers disguise your VPN traffic as regular internet traffic, so your ISP can’t detect VPN use. This allows you to browse safely in countries like China where VPN use is also regulated.
|Data||Without a VPN||With a VPN|
|IP address||✅ Full information on your location||⛔Only the VPN’s IP address|
|Downloads||✅ All downloading history, including file type, size, and download site||⛔Hidden by VPN|
|Browsing history||✅All URLs and domain requests||⛔Hidden by VPN|
|Connection timestamps||✅Full connection timestamps, including time spent on pages and time visited||⛔Only see time connected to and disconnected from the VPN|
|Data and bandwidth usage||✅All information on data and bandwidth used, on which sites, and for which activities||⛔Only to and from VPN server|
|Connection port||✅Full port information||⛔ Hidden by VPN|
|Streaming habits||✅Streaming service site, time spent streaming, bandwidth and data used, and content watched||⛔ Hidden by VPN|
Can I Use a Free VPN?
A free VPN will change your IP address, but does not offer all the features you need to hide your activities from your ISP. Some free services even collect and sell your data to third parties to maintain funding.
Most free VPNs also don’t use their own DNS servers, which leaves your traffic vulnerable. Even if a free VPN lets you get around restrictions, it’s likely your DNS requests will leak at some point. That means your ISP and anyone else watching can see what you’re doing.
Thankfully, PIA has its own DNS servers to keep you and your online habits securely hidden. We reroute all of your domain requests through our own DNS servers. This means your ISP can’t see the sites you visit, or how much time you spend on sites. Everything is hidden from the moment you hit connect.
Stop Your ISP Tracking You
Your ISP can see everything you do online. To maintain your privacy, you have to take action. The most secure way to prevent your ISP from tracking your activities is to use a VPN.
PIA reroutes all your online activities through our DNS servers to ensure what you do online stays hidden. You get to decide who gets access to your digital identity and activities. Download PIA to stay safe online and take the power back into your hands.
Yes, your VPN can hide your online activities from your ISP. A VPN uses encryption to mask your real IP address and your online browsing history. When you connect to a VPN, your browsing data remains private, including the sites you visit and how long you spend there.
PIA uses military-grade VPN encryption to hide your data from your ISP. You can also use the obfuscation feature to add another layer of protection and hide your VPN use from your ISP.
Yes, your ISP can see your VPN’s IP address. However, they can’t see anything else. Everything you do online, including browsing habits, downloads, and viewed content, stays hidden when you use a good VPN.
Connect to any PIA VPN server across the world to access online content safely.
Your ISP can’t see your browsing history when you use a VPN. Everything you do stays private when you connect to a VPN server.
Premium VPNs, like PIA, reroute your traffic through their own DNS servers, which conceals your DNS requests from your ISP. So, your ISP won’t have any idea what sites you visit or what you type in the search bar.
PIA hides your IP address and online traffic. After all, what you do online is your business, no one else’s.
The best way to stop your ISP from tracking you is to use a VPN. A VPN encrypts your data so your ISP can’t see what you’re doing online. A good VPN won’t log any usage data, so what you do online is known only to you.
Get PIA and browse privately without the watchful eyes of your ISP or anyone else.