3 ways to hide your internet activity from data-selling ISPs

Julie Cole
Julie Cole | Tech writer and privacy advocate
Last updated: June 22, 2021
How to hide internet activity from ISP
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Believe it or not, your ISP is allowed to sell all the data it collects about you. That means that everything you do on the internet – all the sites you visit, things you search for, emails you send and read – can be collected and sold on to other companies.

ISPs are allowed to do the following:

  • share the content of your internet activities (but only with governments)
  • sell anonymized metadata about your online activities to anyone
  • keep that information for anywhere between 6 months to 2 years

For some people, this is completely fine. They’re used to having their data collected and sold by corporations such as Facebook, Google and more. But for those who know what people can do with your metadata, or what governments can know about them from the content they enjoy every day, this is a serious problem.

That’s why today we’re going to look at 3 ways you can hide all your internet activity from your ISP.

3 ways to hide internet activity

All of these ways will help you to reach the result of hiding your online activities or browsing history from anyone, including your ISP. However, they will require different levels of effort, price and effectiveness. Beyond that, they’re not exclusive – you can use just one or multiple options at the same time. For each, we’ll list the pros and cons.

1. Use a VPN

  • Pros: easiest to set up; user-friendly; military-grade security; encrypts entire connection
  • Cons: need a monthly subscription

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No matter what your technical level is, using a VPN is a pretty good idea. The best VPNs, like ExpressVPN or NordVPN, have military-grade encryption that scrambles your data so that no one can see what you’re doing online. Even better, VPNs route your traffic through their server, so your communications can’t be traced to your actual IP.

With this, the only thing your ISP will be seeing is that your device is connected to a particular server, and that’s it. The only “disadvantage” is that you’ll have to pay a monthly fee for the best VPNs. ExpressVPN can get a bit pricey, but our other top choice, NordVPN, goes for as low as $3.49/month.

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2. Use Tor

  • Pros: extra security and anonymity; relatively easy to use; free to use
  • Cons: possible vulnerabilities; can attract unwanted attention; only encrypts browser activities

Tor, or The Onion Router, is one of the top solutions for hiding your online activity from anyone. Similar to a VPN, Tor uses layers of encryption to bundle up data, and these layers are “peeled off” as the packets bounce around the web. Hence the name. By the time data reaches its destination, the layers have all been removed, along with any information about where it came from and who sent it.

While it offers pretty amazing anonymity, it doesn’t come without its setbacks. One big con is that by using Tor, you may be attracting attention from law enforcement, such as the NSA. There are also questions about Tor’s real purpose: some believe that since it was created by the US government, they may still be in control of the exit nodes.

Tor has also had some vulnerability issues. One incident happened in 2014, where hackers set up relays on the network, letting the traffic flow through those servers so they could identify the users. Of course, to offset this vulnerability, you can use a combination of Tor and VPN, a feature available with ExpressVPN’s service.

VPNpro rating: 9.1 / 10

3. Use HTTPS Everywhere

  • Pros: easy to install and use; free
  • Cons: doesn’t work all the time; only encrypts browser activities

Lastly, you can use the Firefox, Chrome and Opera extension known as HTTPS Everywhere. This extension allows you to visit the encrypted HTTPS versions of websites, rather than the unencrypted HTTP. By using HTTPS Everywhere, you’ll be able to encrypt the content of the websites you visit.

However, this extension only works for websites that support HTTPS, and you may either be unable to visit those sites or have to use them unencrypted. Beyond that, this extension will only encrypt your browser activity. That means other things that don’t require browsers, like torrenting, will still be seen by your ISP.

Be private and secure every time you go online

All of these 3 ways listed above will help you get more private when you’re online. However, if you’re concerned about true privacy and security, we highly recommend you get a VPN. That’s the best option overall, since it will protect your entire internet connection, not just your browsing activity.

That’s also why we’d go with NordVPN again, since it has the Tor over VPN feature that lets you combine the best of both worlds, plus an unbeatable price.

VPNpro rating: 9.6 / 10
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  1. Lad

    wow none of these methods hide you from your isp. NEVER trust a paid vpn like nord, if you use nord your isp cant look anymore but nordvpn can and they will. These paid vpn’s are also notorious for data breaches and the like. If you want a good vpn have a look at OpenVPN. Using tor is never a bad idea (altough it can be a bit slow) but your isp will still be able to see outgoing and incoming traffic and they are able to determine what youre searching. Using https everywhere is also a good idea but it wont hide your activity from your isp. If you are concerned with your privacy get proxychains, openVPN and use tor. I also reccomand you install cookieblockers, trackerblockers, anti fingerprinters and javascript blockers on your browser. It can be a little work but your privacy is woth it

    1. avatar
      Ethan Payne

      Hello, Lad. Yes, these methods aren’t perfect, but they are enough for most use-cases. Plus, premium VPNs like NordVPN can be trusted because they are audited extensively by third parties, have strict no-logs policies, and reside in privacy-respecting jurisdictions. Furthermore, you suggest OpenVPN, yet a lot of VPNs use this tunneling protocol by default. Of course, using it yourself is an option, but misconfiguring it can lead to a false sense of security. Additionally, modern tunneling protocols like WireGuard are actually more secure and offer better performance. 

      Overall, I think VPNs are a great option for those who don’t have the technical knowledge and experience to set everything up themselves.

  2. Kristian Kelley

    It’s best to stay private on the internet. Make it a habit to keep your data to yourself. I think I am fine with the knowledge I have on hiding my internet activities from the ISP. Thank you so much for posting such helpful content.

  3. Jenny P

    I used Tor once a twice in the past and the only thing I remember is how slow it was ! I don’t know if it’s still slow or not but I think I’ll go with a VPN, they have more services.

    1. some guy 1234

      Not slow anymore

  4. Ewan B

    This is the first time I am reading an article like this. It must have been a good way to start the day. Very interesting. You won’t understand how much stress you have saved me by your post.

  5. Gael C

    I’ve heard of NordVPN and it sounds trustworthy and secure. It’s Panama based so if you really want to escape any prying eyes it’s probably the best. I’ve heard of Tor as well but its legendary “speed” doesn’t make it the best option out there. If chosen wisely a VPN can grant you anonymity and discretion.

  6. Ireland

    Wouldn’t it be a bit too late for those of us already using these sites for years?

  7. Marian

    I think Tor is a better option, it sounds safer. But if someone wants to use a VPN, they have to be really careful when picking one, since many of them claim to be safer but in reality aren’t.

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