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There’s a lot of news out there about providers gaining access to users' information. Unfortunately, these claims are a lot closer to the truth than we’d like. In fact, the reality may be much worse.              

Your online activities leave a trace somewhere on the servers, so every time you access a website, the information is stored with your internet provider. Your provider knows exactly which website you visit, which apps you use on your phone, and the files you download. Your internet activity is an open book to your provider.

Many providers will use the information they collect from your online surfing and search results to create a profile for each user. These profiles contain information that you would not consider sharing with your provider.

In this article, we’ll offer you some ways to protect your data from nosey providers. Continue reading to find out more.

Need for an Internet Connection

Whether the privacy concerns shock you or not, one thing is guaranteed. It is not possible to live in today's day and age, without an internet connection. We can do most of our work online, even complete our chores, pay for bills, study, and work online. In addition, most of us also use the internet for most of our entertainment. To scroll through social media or to stream movies, a Spectrum internet plan is necessary.

You can also enjoy fiber-optic connections from AT&T Internet that offer fast download and upload speeds to their customers. You can also opt for Hargray Internet if you want to enjoy unlimited data allowances and speeds as fast as 1 Gbps. Your choices don’t end there. With Rise Broadband, you can access fixed wireless internet service in rural areas in various parts of the country.

In short, an internet connection is as crucial as any other utility in our house. We can’t live without it, but we can protect ourselves and keep our information private.

What Information Does Your ISP Collect?

Any and all unencrypted data that goes through your router can easily be read and analyzed by internet providers. The information being collected without your knowledge is very detailed and includes each URL you visit, the content you read, the files you download, the duration that you spend on each site, and even the devices that you use to access the sites.

The providers sell this collected data to marketing companies, who are then able to use the data to target you with specific ads. In some countries, there are laws that require the internet providers to store the data, which may be reviewed by law enforcement authorities.  

A number of advocates are fighting daily to work against these laws and offer users the ability to protect their data. They are trying to stop your data from being abused by these providers. This is because many providers want to go even further when it comes to collecting your data. These providers have the power to pressurize governments into taking their side too.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had proposed rules to the US Congress that would require the providers to ask for permission before they were able to share their data with third parties. However, lobbyists convinced Congress to reject the changes and maintain the status quo. Some states took matters into their own hands and created laws to protect their people’s privacy. But the majority of citizens’ data remains open to providers and ISPs want things to stay the same.

What if You Don’t Put Personal Information Online?

Maybe if you avoid posting your personal information on your Facebook profile, or use your browser’s incognito mode, you can protect your information from your providers? Unfortunately, these strategies will not be able to help you against your provider. Unless your information is encrypted before it passes through your router, the ISP can see everything.

To reiterate, ISPs will store and sell your data to third parties. When they’re not selling your data, they’re offering it up to intelligence agencies in their countries whenever asked.

Tips to Protect You From Your ISP

Now that you know your data is being recorded almost constantly, you may be wondering what you can do to keep your personal information, personal. Some of the ways that you can do that have been detailed below.

Choose an ISP That Respects Privacy

Internet service providers are not easily willing to express their intrusive ways and confess just how far they will go to be intrusive. It may be hard for you to find a provider that is willing to protect your data because of how common the practice is, but you can do some research to check them out.

However, given the state of the laws in the country, you may be unable to find an ISP that cares about your privacy. In this case, you may be able to implement one of the other tips.

Don’t Accept Supercookies and Ignore ISP Tracking Features

A few years ago, an internet provider was caught including cookie-like trackers in their customers' traffic, which allowed third-party marketers and networks to access your activity without your consent. When they received criticism from US senators, the provider was forced to offer users the option to opt-out of the choice.

You can have a look at your settings and find out if you have the option to opt-out of any tracking features your ISP has in place. You’ll usually find this setting under privacy or marketing settings. Your provider may not offer you the option to opt-out but it can’t hurt to check.

HTTPS Protocol

HTTPS is an encryption tool used by some sites that minimize the data that your providers can see. When a website offers you a secured connection, it drastically reduces the amount of information that your ISP can see. But, it can still see which website you are accessing. So, when you visit a protected URL, the ISP can’t see what you’re doing on that page, but they do know which website you are connected to.

While the tool doesn’t offer you complete protection, it’s still a good technology that offers you privacy to some extent. Think twice before accessing websites that don’t use HTTPS.

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)

One other way for you to encrypt your traffic from providers is by using VPNs. With the help of VPNs, you can establish a secure connection between the device you are using and the destination. The destination could be a website, a storage device, or even another device. With VPNs, you are able to create a private network, while using the public network.

HTTPS is only available on some sites and just safeguards your traffic on devices, which are configured to use it. If you have the correct setup, you would be able to use the VPN to cover all of the web traffic on:

But, just like any other tool, VPNs also have several challenges and vulnerabilities that you need to come to adapt to.

First and foremost, you need to ensure that the VPN is set up to safeguard all of your internet traffic. There are some simple ways to check out the setup options and adjust them according to your needs, but some of its features require technical knowledge to ensure all the data is encrypted.

You could have a professional come to your place and set up the VPN to ensure that your traffic is encrypted. Once again, the ISPs will be able to see the websites you visit because while the traffic is encrypted, the start and endpoints will remain detectable. In this case, you will need to ensure that the use of proxy servers is also included in the VPN configuration. Now, the VPN traffic will first be routed through the proxy server and from there to your endpoint.

Some of the things that you need to keep in mind:

VPNs offer some of the best ways for you to protect your data when they are configured correctly.

What to Look For in a VPN?

VPNs operating in the US are numerous, and plenty of similarities can be drawn between them. Despite such a range, only a handful of VPNs can provide you the security you require to shield your activity from your internet service provider.

Firstly, you’d want a VPN that had a rigid no-logs policy. What this means is that no data will be stored on their servers. Additionally, encryption is a safe and brilliant way to add layers of protection. Military-grade encryption will be helpful, as well as secure OpenVPN and IKEv2 channels.

A vital feature that you want your VPN to possess is an automatic kill switch. This entails that all traffic is immediately cut off when your VPN disconnects. This will prevent any of your data from leaking into the ISP's server, too.

A notable feature would also include a fast server for your VPN. This ensures stable connection and speed despite where you use your VPN from. However, if you use a small VPN network with overloaded servers, your net surfing will slow down immensely.

Is It Enough to Clear My Search History?

Searching online means you establish a browsing history in the form of cookies and cached data. A simple way to erase data to prevent users of your device from seeing what you’ve been browsing is to set up an automatic feature that erases data as soon as you close the browser.

Despite such steps, complete and true privacy isn’t a guarantee. You’re simply clearing your directory of your searches. Your IP address can still be traced despite you clearing your browser. This means that the government, ISP itself, and third parties can trace your searches, activities and what you’ve downloaded.

The above-stated tips are definitive steps one can take to limit the ISP's reach. You can stay undercover with these methods and reduce your worries about being monitored when connected securely to the internet. You may want to cross-check your VPN to make sure these features are available to you.

In Summary

In the digital era, privacy has become essential for everyone. Personal data that can be construed as sensitive is important for everyone. Our ISPs can track everything that we view and read. So, you must want a connection that values your privacy and security. Ensure your ISPs are reliable and don’t give up your information to third parties, advertising agencies, or media personnel. At times, your data can be breached if the government or local authorities require it for surveillance. For your own sake, a VPN can help prevent such boundaries from being crossed.