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
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.
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.
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.
Tech writer and privacy advocate
Julie is a firm believer in equal rights for everyone. She is a traveler and blogger, focusing her efforts on exposing censorship and discrimination around the world. She wants to hold corrupt governments and shady companies accountable by writing investigative articles and helpful guides.