Can an ISP Track My Online Activities?

🕒 3 min

It’s the first thing you see when you open an incognito tab on Google Chrome. That ‘your activity might be still visible to your internet service provider’ among other entities like your organization and (administrators of) the websites that you visit. But that’s the policy of the namesake private mode in such web browsers, something that you already know.

A blank incognito tab on Google Chrome warns that ISPs can track your web activities

But how about when you are accessing a questionable site, when you are using a VPN, or when you are on a proxy server? Can your ISP see and/or track your web activities?

The answer is usually a yes. But it’s not a black and white event because intent plays an important role too. Your ISP may not care about your online activities, however questionable they might be. This is because you are its customer and it wants you to continue using its services.

But that may not be true if another entity, say, like the government or the law enforcement, requests your Internet provider to divulge information about your online activities. This counts as intent and your ISP may be bound by law to provide them that information. While this action and the corresponding law which influences it varies across regions, the underlying truth is that your ISP can see/track your activities and report them.

Let’s look at some more information about this practice and what you should know about it.

What Can an ISP See?

Internet service providers keep logs of all their users’ online activities. This is how they compute the bandwidth usage and bill you. For instance, your ISP can see what websites you visit, what pages you visit on those websites, and for how much time. They can also retrieve information about your uploads and downloads. So, if you spend a lot of time on Facebook, uploading photos of your pet, your ISP will have that data along with time stamps.

However, all this information is usually in the form of metadata, i.e., internet protocol (IP) and port numbers. This means that they are not explicitly legible and the ISP will need to process them further to derive the actual information. There is no reason for your ISP to dig deeper unless notified by a third-party entity like law enforcement. 

How to Add More Safety Cover to Your Web Activities?

Using a VPN is one of the safest ways to browse the Internet. It gives you a strong, extra cover which even your ISP will find difficult to penetrate. Of course, a VPN will not give you complete cover more than it allows you to change your IP location. It acts as a wall that will make it harder for these entities to track you. Your ISP will know that you are using a VPN but that’s about it.

You should also focus on accessing only those websites that are secured, i.e., they use an HTTPS connection. Non-HTTPS websites are not only unsafe to visit but are also prone to be attacked by hackers. They are best left unvisited. Installing anti-virus software and keeping it updated along with your operating system is also highly recommended.

The fact that ISPs can track your online activities shouldn’t worry you much because this is not a recent development. Internet providers around the world have always had access to their users’ activities. The more important point here is to ask yourself: will visiting this website cause me trouble? If the answer is yes, and if you frequently ask this question, it’s time to get a safe and reliable VPN. You may consider TuxlerVPN.

For more explainers and guides around the subject of safe Internet browsing, follow our blog.

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