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Avoid ISP tracking: Hide IP and keep your browsing history private

We pay our monthly Internet bill to be able to access the Internet. We don’t pay it to give our Internet service provider (ISP) a chance to collect and sell our private data to make more money. This was apparently lost on congressional Republicans as they voted to strip their constituents of their privacy. Even though our elected representatives have failed us, there are technical measures we can take to protect our privacy from ISPs.

Bear in mind that these measures aren’t a replacement for the privacy rules that were repealed or would protect our privacy completely, but they will certainly help.

Opt-out of ISP tracking

In 2014, Verizon was caught injecting cookie-like trackers into their users’ traffic, allowing websites and third-party ad networks to build profiles without users’ consent. Following criticism from US senators and FCC action, Verizon stopped auto-enrolling users and instead made it opt-in. Users now have a choice of whether to participate in this privacy-intrusive service.

You should check your account settings to see if your ISP allows you to opt-out of any tracking. It is generally found under the privacy, marketing, or ads settings. Your ISP doesn’t have to provide this opt-out, especially in light of the repeals of the privacy rules, but it can never hurt to check.

VPNs, Tor, and HTTPS: Preserving your privacy

EFF makes this browser extension so that users connect to a service securely using encryption. If a website or service offers a secure connection, then the ISP is generally not able to see what exactly you’re doing on the service. However, the ISP is still able to see that you’re connecting to a certain website. For example, if you were to visit https://www.eff.org/https-everywhere, your ISP wouldn’t be able to tell that you’re on the HTTPS Everywhere page, but would still be able to see that you’re connecting to EFF’s website at https://www.eff.org

In the wake of the privacy rules repeal, the advice to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect your privacy has dominated the conversation. However, while VPNs can be useful, they carry their own unique privacy risk. When using a VPN, you’re making your Internet traffic pass through the VPN provider’s servers before reaching your destination on the Internet. Your ISP will see that you’re connecting to a VPN provider, but won’t be able to see what you’re ultimately connecting to. This is important to understand because you’re exposing your entire Internet activity to the VPN provider and shifting your trust from the ISP to the VPN.

In other words, you should be damn sure you trust your VPN provider to not do the shady things that you don’t want your ISP to do.VPNs can see, modify, and log your Internet traffic. Many VPN providers make promises to not log your traffic and to take other privacy protective measures, but it can be hard to verify this independently since these services are built on closed platforms. For example, a recent study found that up to 38% of VPN apps available for Android contained some form of malware or spyware.

Keep your IP and browsing history private and secure with a trusted VPN!