What Your ISP Knows and How to Stop it Tracking You

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can see everything you do online. They can track things like which websites you visit, how long you spend on them, the content you watch, the device you’re using, and your geographic location.

Depending on where you are in the world, this information is used for a variety of purposes, including to build a consumer profile for sale to third-party advertisers or impose online censorship on behalf of governments.


In the following piece explores the scope of information shared with and logged by internet providers, why your activity is being tracked and solutions that can be used to avoid personal monitoring.
Services providers are logging. Photo: LWP

Like it or not, your internet service provider (ISP) knows an awful lot about you, your browsing habits, the digital programs you use, and any internet-connected devices in your home or office.

Most people don’t realise the full extent of their ISP’s data collection.

Or if they do, prefer to ignore its data-hungry nature. 

From your email inbox to your search queries, if your traffic is unencrypted, your ISP is, unfortunately, an all-seeing, all-knowing entity. It manages all your internet traffic and can watch everything you do online.


Encrypting your traffic is one way to skirt the spying, but even then, spikes in your traffic patterns can still indicate to your ISP what you’re doing. 

We’ll cover your encryption options in more detail later, but first, here’s what your ISP can see when you’re browsing unprotected.

  • HTTP website activity If you visit unencrypted sites that use HTTP, not the newer HTTPS, your ISP will know that you visited that site, can see your user name and password if you log in or have an account on the site, and any payment details if you buy anything on that site. Note that your ISP will still know when you visit HTTPS sites, but can’t see what you do when you’re on that site.
  • Your emails — If your email provider doesn’t have Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption, your emails (and the contents) are open for your ISP to view. If you use an ISP that also provides the email client you use, you should know that your ISP has full access to your email account.
  • Bitcoin transactions — Bitcoin is an incredibly secure way of making transactions, but if you think it’s 100 percent anonymous, you might be surprised to learn that your ISP knows when you use Bitcoin. Via your traffic, your ISP can also trace any crypto-coin transactions back to you.
  • Network activity — If you’re anything like most people these days, you use several internet-connected devices. Known as the Internet of Things (IoT) smart devices include app-controlled thermostats, voice-activated assistants like Alexa and Siri, and even your smart fridge. Your ISP knows which smart devices you own because each is connected to the same home network.


At this point, you might be wondering (justifiably) why an internet provider tracks all of this activity and information. There are a number of reasons including:

  • Third-party sales — ISPs sell advertising space to third-party companies and have been doing so for years. This doesn’t mean your ISP is compiling vast Excel spreadsheets about each user, but it does mean that your online activity is a commodity used by your ISP for financial gain, in much the same way that Facebook and Google use your activity.
  • Censorship — Your ISP likely plays an active role in ensuring government censorship mandates are followed. This information can also be given to the authorities if certain criteria are met. In Australia, mandatory data retention powers mean your browsing history is provided to the police if you’re under investigation. 
  • Bandwidth throttling — ISPs actively slow down the flow of data at certain times of the day, such as peak internet-use periods. If you notice your internet is slower between 6 pm and 9 pm, for example, that’s why. By throttling data, ISPs ensure there’s enough bandwidth to go around. They track activity to measure this.


Push back against the system. Photo: MWL

If you don’t want your ISP to have so much personal information, there are some steps you can take. Here are your top strategies:

  • Use a reputable VPNUsing a VPN is the perfect way to encrypt your traffic. We say reputable here because free VPNs are notorious for selling your information to third-party companies. Use a well-known, paid service for the best protection.
  • Switch to a private email client — You’re not limited to Gmail or Outlook, services such as ProtonMail offer far more privacy with end-to-end encryption.
  • Use HTTPS Everywhere — This extension service ensures that each site you visit has HTTPS protection.
  • Ditch Google — It’s the world’s most popular browser, but it’s also a data-collection nightmare.

Ensure you are protecting your personal information while exploring the web.

You never know who might be watching.


Our friends at ExpressVPN have further information and services available!


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2 comments on “What Your ISP Knows and How to Stop it Tracking You”

  1. Warning heeded.

    Are you sure Google is a ‘browser’? I thougjt it was a search engine.

    Proton mail is CERN, Switzerland?

    It would be nice to have a particle accelerator.

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