Internet Security

Is my Internet Service Provider tracking me?

ISPs provide Internet access to businesses, individuals, and organizations. They also track all of your activities. But why and how?

May 17, 2022

What is an internet service provider? (ISP)

An ISP (Internet Service Provider) is the company you pay for your Internet access and service. ISPs run the network infrastructure that connects your home to the Internet, allowing you to use it.

ISPs provide Internet access to businesses, individuals, and organizations. They run the network infrastructure that allows users like you and me to connect with each other on this thing called "the internet."

Your ISP Is Tracking Every Website You Visit: Here's What We Know

Your ISP is tracking every website you visit. It's not just your connection to Google or Facebook that can be monitored, either—every website you visit will have its IP address recorded by your ISP.

When an ISP tracks its users' activity, it can use this information for various purposes. For example, an ISP might sell browsing data to marketers or advertisers so that they can target ads at specific individuals based on the websites they visit and how frequently they access them (and thus how much money they make). A company could also use collected browsing histories in order to improve its services by identifying which websites cause issues with its system or provide better customer support opportunities than others do—and then make changes accordingly. But perhaps most importantly: internet service providers want as much insight into customer habits as possible so that they can charge more money for faster speeds when necessary (which tends to happen after consumers start complaining about slow load times).

Here are the main ways ISPs track users:

DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) technology allows ISPs to inspect the contents of your data packets and analyze what content they contain. This process is especially useful for monitoring peer-to-peer file-sharing networks like BitTorrent because it lets them see what files are being downloaded and by whom. It also lets them see which websites you visit and which apps you use on a regular basis so they can build profiles about each user's preferences and habits.

Your ISP may also have access to certain information about your devices when it comes into contact with them through Wi-Fi hotspots that use MAC addresses (media access control addresses). These addresses typically identify each computer connected via Wi-Fi in a given location; however, some providers also sell these lists as part of their services or share them with third parties who want access as well!

Why Is Your ISP Tracking You?

The number one reason why ISPs track users is to make a profit. Most ISPs are for-profit companies, and they make money by selling data about you to advertisers. The more data they have on you, the more money they can sell to advertisers.

When an ISP sells your personal information to an advertiser, it usually means that the advertiser will pay them based on the number of people who see their ads—the more people who see those ads and click on them, the more money both sides make (for example: if an advertiser pays $1 per click and 1000 people click on their ad today, then they'll give your ISP $1000).

How Your ISP Profits from Tracking You

Your ISP can sell your data to advertisers and other businesses, internet service providers, and/or governments. 

Governments can use your information to track and identify you. Some governments will also monitor your communications or even censor them entirely. Usually there is a specific time period of past history and internet activity that governments require ISPs to track in case of potential future legal action.

ISPs can use their access to your online activities to track and identify you, then sell that information (or data mining) back to third parties like advertisers and marketers, so they know how best to target ads at you based on what websites you visit or what news articles catch your eye on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. 

Social media companies such as Meta and Twitter and Google are also guilty of doing the same. 

So how can you protect your information if your ISP is keeping track of your data?

The short answer is that you can't.

But there are some measures that you can take to protect your data, browsing history, and search results even if your ISP is keeping track of it.

Consider using a VPN (a virtual private network) or Tor browser. These can help mask your IP address so that it doesn't appear to be coming from a certain location or device. This can make it harder for someone like a hacker or government agent who wants to snoop on what you're doing online. Other tools like encrypted email services, chat services, file transfer services and cloud storage services may also be worth exploring if you want additional privacy protection.

If you notice suspicious behavior from your internet connection, it may be time to take action.

If you notice unexpected changes to your internet connection, it’s time to take action.

  • Unusually slow Internet speeds
  • Unusually fast Internet speeds
  • Pop-up ads that aren’t relevant to your browsing history (Yes, we know what you like!)
  • Unusual activity on connected devices in the home network—like an unidentifiable device appearing in a list of connected devices or seeing unusually high usage rates at certain times of day
  • Unexpected changes to your home network settings—like an unidentifiable device being added without permission or having access restricted by a new password

You can't escape from the watchful eye of your ISP -- your best course of action is to educate yourself on how network providers track users and secure yourself against identity theft, phishing attempts, and ad targeting.

The good news is that there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

Use a VPN. A virtual private network (VPN) creates an encrypted connection between your computer and the Internet, making it harder for your ISP to track what you're doing online when using public Wi-Fi hotspots or other networks.

Use a secure browser and email provider. Your browser tracks all of the websites you visit, so make sure to use one that has built-in privacy measures like Firefox or Brave's boatload of built-in security features, like ad blocking and tracker protection. If you're interested in privacy but aren't sure where to start, check out this list of popular browsers ranked by how much data they keep from users' browsing histories:

Use encrypted search engines such as DuckDuckGo or StartPage instead of Google Search; these will still provide results based on your query terms but won't store any personal information about its users’ searches (which would otherwise be used by advertisers).

Use Mysterium VPN

A VPN (virtual private network) is a tool that allows you to connect to the internet anonymously. When you use a VPN, your ISP cannot see which sites you’re visiting or what information you’re sending and receiving. This is important because ISPs are increasingly tracking what data their customers are accessing.

Mysterium VPN is powered by a peer-to-peer network across the world that allows you to mask your online activity from your ISP by connecting to our global network of over 12,000 nodes across 110+ countries. 

Because we are a peer-to-peer network, meaning that we reroute your internet activity, not through servers, but nodes offered up by our community members. Users with unused network traffic can sell their internet to the Mysterium marketplace as a node. Mysterium VPN users can then purchase these nodes safely, privately, and anonymously to access the internet.

Using active residential IPs misdirects your ISP and subsequent parties tracking your online activity. 

Click here for more information on Mysterium VPN. 

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