November 26, 2019

Privacy Tip of the Week: Reduce ISP Tracking

Posted by Rhiannon

When we think of the organizations that collect and track our data, the names that come to mind include big corporations like Facebook, Google, and Amazon. While knowing these names allows us to avoid them if we so wish, there’s another ever-present entity that collects and may sell our data without many internet users even realizing it. Thanks to its ubiquitous nature, it’s also almost impossible to avoid the perpetual tracking we are subjected to.

The group about which we are talking is, collectively, our internet service providers, or ISPs. These businesses are our gateways to the internet. Without them, our connected worlds would grow significantly smaller. Unfortunately, with them, we put much of our privacy in their hands because they can identify and track our online activities, then sell that information to third-parties in order to profit from our data. While most people don’t have the option to cut the internet from their lives entirely, there are a few solutions to reduce ISP tracking:

  • What information are ISPs collecting?
  • Choose the right provider
  • Use a VPN
  • Connect to HTTPS encrypted sites
  • Opt out

What Information are ISPs Collecting?

Because internet service providers assign users an identifying IP address, and connect users to the web via their own networks, it’s relatively simple for them to collect information about their clients. Some of the information gathered by ISP tracking includes:

  • The time you connect to the web
  • How long your overall session lasts
  • The websites you visit and their specific URLs
  • The pages you open within each website
  • How much time you spend on a website
  • Your most-frequently visited pages

ISPs may also be able to collect more personal data, depending on what an individual user shares online. This data may include:

  • Your location
  • Your email address and phone number
  • Information about your relationships
  • Social media data

Choose the Right Provider to Reduce ISP Tracking

While many internet service providers collect and possibly sell user data, there are always exceptions to the rule. When you select a service provider, take the time to research all the local options available to you, in particular their privacy policies and terms of service. Some organizations collect less information than others, while a few may collect no information at all. Their privacy practices should be mentioned in their written policies. By being aware of how a business treats user data, you can decide whether or not an ISP is right for you.

Use a VPN

One excellent way to reduce and possibly even prevent ISP tracking altogether is to use a VPN for every online session. A VPN, or virtual private network, funnels your internet activity through their own servers instead of the servers of your ISP. They can also assign you a new, temporary IP address that your internet service provider can’t track. This effectively stops an ISP from being able to follow your activities online. However, VPN users must be careful because, while an ISP may not be able to see your data, an untrustworthy VPN can. When choosing a virtual private network, always opt for one that operates under a no logs policy (such as HotBot VPN), which means they don’t collect any session data about their users.

Connect to HTTPS Encrypted Sites

In recent years, many websites have begun adopting a level of encryption known as SSL encryption. SSL, which is short for secure sockets layer, secures a connection between an online user and the websites they visit. This extra layer of encryption hides private site activity from prying eyes, such as your internet service provider. Every time you need to carry out a sensitive activity online, such as logging in to password protected accounts or checking your banking information, you should only do so if the website is encrypted, so no one but you and the website you are engaging with can access your information.

The way to tell if a website uses SSL encryption is to take a look at its URL. The web address should start with the letters ‘HTTPS’ instead of ‘HTTP.’ In some browsers, there may instead be a lock beside the URL or the web address may turn green. While SSL security helps prevent ISPs from seeing what you do on a website, be aware that they can still see the sites you visit and how long you spend on them.

Opt Out

In most cases, the successes of ISP tracking come about because many people aren’t aware that it’s even a thing that internet service providers can do. However, many ISPs also allow users to opt out of tracking…so long as those users know to do so. Every ISP is different, so research your particular provider to learn how to opt out if the option is available to you.

Do you want to reduce ISP tracking? Then download HotBot VPN today.

Posted by Rhiannon

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