How to Hide Your Browsing History from Your ISP

There's a joke on the Internet that says:

"Best friends delete each other's browser history when one of them dies."

We're about to embark in the 5G era, and our browser is so personal, we don't want anyone to have it.

I would go as far as to say that your browser history paints a better picture of you than your Mom.

Sadly, you're not the only owner of your history.

Yep, your ISP gets to know it, too!

If you think that your browser history should only belong to you, here's how you can hide it from your ISP.

What Kind of Data Does Your ISP Store?

To keep it short: every click.

I mean, sure, there's no one behind a computer somewhere spying on you 24/7. But they do keep track of your every move and store this information in their system.

And to answer your question before you ask it:

No, the Incognito Mode is not enough to hide you from your ISP. 

While the Incognito Mode does allow you to avoid cookies, browsing history and such, your ISP will still be able to see everything you do. Whoops!

person hiding under a duvet

But Why Do They Want Such Information?

For many reasons, really.

First, your browsing history can earn them some (a lot of) money. For example, they can sell your IP address to marketers so that they can send you targeted ads.

They can also sell "better internet privacy" as an add-on. How this works is that you pay more money to them in exchange for getting your browsing history un-tracked. 

Another thing is, if the FBI or the police send a subpoena, your ISP is obligated by law to hand over your browsing history.

The Law Regarding Your Digital Data Protection

Yeah, we know you're not an international bandit and that you don't mind the police knowing what you do on the Internet.

(Watching cat videos for hours on end is not yet a crime, thank Cthulhu.)

And yes, you don't mind targeted ads as they allow you to find better deals.

But if you think about it, your ISP does have quite some power over you.

What if you don't want your boss to know you've been browsing job sites? What if you want to keep your health-related searches secret from your insurance provider?

The thing is, there's not yet a law to protect your browsing history from being sold/bartered/used against you by your ISP.

Sure, there's the new GDPR in Europe which makes it harder for the ISPs to do so.

But for everybody else in the world, we're still at the mercy of the policies of our administrations. This certainly gets more complicated to set up since every administration has its own preferences when it comes to digital security.

In short, we still have a long way to go.

an almost closed laptop

How to Hide Your Browser History from Your ISP

So, what can you do?

The obvious answer is: hide your browser history!

1. Use the Tor Browser

The Onion Router (Tor) is a 100% free browser that will hide your IP address, search history, and other data you wish to be private.

Tor was a project developed by the US Naval Research Lab and DARPA (would you believe that?), and the browser has been adjusted for Mozilla Firefox.

Tor is easy to use as you won't need to download and install anything.

Tor is impartial since it's maintained by volunteers and funded by private donations, making it not owned by anybody in particular.

However, Tor is not completely foolproof:

  • Your ISP still can see the amount of data you're using.
  • Using Tor can attract the attention of government agencies toward you. This is because criminals often use Tor for malicious activities. However, rest assured. Not a single regular person like you and me has been prosecuted from using Tor.
  • The websites you visit still can see what you're communicating with them.
  • There's still a chance you drop your anonymity - if you use it wrong.

That's why Tor itself issues recommendations on how to be safe on Tor:

  • Only visit HTTPS sites (or use the HTTPS Everywhere plug-in).
  • Don't use BitTorrent.
  • Don't open a document or media while being online.

Tor is still the best anonymity software out there, but be prepared to sacrifice your speed.

However, it's getting faster every day because the volunteers behind it love the fast Internet as much as you do. Before you shrug it off in fear of being frustrated over the slow Internet, try it out first.

child hiding his face with his hands

2. Use Web Proxies

Proxies are another option when you want to hide your browsing history from your ISP.

Web proxies, just like the Tor browser, are also somewhat user-friendly as you don't have to install software before using them.

They are browser-based, meaning that you open their websites and do your searches from there to have a certain degree of anonymity.

Anonymous proxy servers work by masking IP address, giving you a fake IP when you're surfing the web. 

However, proxies, especially the free ones, are not foolproof either:

  • Proxies change your IP address, but do not provide you with encryption. Which means that the data you exchange are still accessible to whoever wants to gather it (for example, the authorities).
  • Some free proxy websites can still gather your data and sell it.

Be very wise when using free web proxies. If you're interested in using one, we have a list of 10 fee and reliable proxies here.

3. Use a VPN

This is the solution that we most recommend for anybody seeking a complete level of anonymity online.

A Virtual Private Network offers quite a few perks in term of internet security. Here are only a few of them:

  • It hides your IP address.
  • It provides military-grade encryption throughout the VPN tunnel. Even if a highly talented hacker gets ahold of it, your data is jumbled and in secret language.
  • It allows you to get around geo restrictions and access other restricted websites (for whatever reason).
  • It enables you to use free Wi-Fi in security.
  • Some VPNs even let you pay in crypto so that you genuinely leave no trails behind you.

While your ISP still can track some of your activities using a VPN, it's still the best option out there.

Yes, VPNs does require money, but some VPNs are even available for free.

However, we do recommend paying for your VPN as paid VPNs are generally safer (and faster, too). You can also take advantage of their try-out period (most of them offer this) to find out which one works for you.

Also, do note that some VPNs keep logs, at least for some time before deleting them from their system.

That's why, before signing a contract with a VPN provider, you need to read all the fine prints to know precisely your rights and obligations.

If you're interested in a VPN but have no time to try them one by one, we have compiled the list of the best VPNs of 2019 here.

man hiding behind a table

Final Words

If you think that your ISP should not own your browsing history, then you'll want to try one of these three options above.

All of them are entirely legal (including Tor) and give you a certain degree of invisibility.

Be advised, however, that invisibility does not equal invincibility. A data breach is always possible, but by adopting these three methods, it'll be harder for your ISP to get your browser history.

Serina Rajagukguk

Serina is a writer whose passion includes learning all about new technology and trying to explain it in a layman term. 

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