Is your ISP tracking your Personal Data?
Unfortunately, whatever you do online is not private at all. Turns out Google and social media giants aren’t the only ones watching your online activities.
Internet service providers also connect user data. Since we connect to the World Wide Web by subscribing to ISPs like Charter Spectrum, many of them may be able to track our online activities. However not in the way you think. Also, you can limit it. Let’s dig into this more.
IS My ISP Collecting My Personal Data?
Yes, but they aren’t reading your chats or keeping an eye on you 24 hours, 7 days a week. They don’t collect, store, and possibly sell some of your personal information.
Every ISP has its own set of privacy policies in place to secure your personal information. For example, a marketing firm is unlikely to come into your ISP’s headquarters and demand a spreadsheet containing your personal data in exchange for money. But they could be doing some things that could be deemed a breach of trust.
The police department or a government agency can get access to the data your ISP collects. Your ISP is legally obligated to give whatever information they have on you if they are served with a subpoena.
Do ISPs Sell Your Data?
Yes, they could.
Internet companies aren’t just collecting data on you to comply with the government. They are also doing that for their own personal motives. And what is that motive, you ask? To profit from selling your data to marketing agencies.
If you are receiving targeted ads when you’re online using your Spectrum WiFi, this is because your internet company has sold your data to a third party.
Since internet service providers can apply your data to algos, they know your internet browsing behavior and they know your buying habits too. There is even a study by FTC that has revealed that internet service companies sell data to third-party organizations including your sexual orientation, religious beliefs, ethnicity, race, political affiliations, and economic status. They also collect demographic info via your browsing data, TV viewing history, search history, location, and search history. Some internet companies also sell your real-time location to a third party.
Since ISPs Apply Throttling, This Explains a Lot
How do you think your internet provider knows it’s time to apply to throttle a subscriber’s internet?
Although not all ISPs impose data restrictions, many do, and this is done by analyzing your online activities. Once they realize a lot of traffic is coming from your IP, they turn off your internet or slow down the speed, a practice they call speed throttling. This means that your ISP will be able to tell if you’ve been binge-watching Netflix or downloading new games on your gaming console.
Some internet companies claim to slow internet speeds to alleviate network congestion, but a majority of them do so to encourage users to upgrade to faster plans with larger data caps. So don’t fall for their trick.
So My Internet Company Is Tracking Me. Should I Care?
At this point, many users have given up. So, what if my internet company is sharing my personal data with the government. At least it’s done in good faith. To bust crime.
And what does it matter if I see a few more targeted ads? At least, the ads I see are personalized.
Well, it’s not as simple as it seems. You could have the world’s best internet subscription and they could have the best policies for storing your personal information. But in this era, data breaches are happening every other day. What if your ISP is affected? This means your personal data could be hacked. So yeah, you should care.
How to Limit ISP Tracking?
Can you confuse your internet service provider? Yes, you can. Here are some ways you can do that:
Use a VPN
If you are concerned about what your ISP is tracking, it’s recommended to use a VPN. A Virtual Private Network is the best way of preventing your ISP from tracking your personal data. It’s a tool to mask your location and cover your online activities.
This is done so by encrypting the user’s personal data so that ISPs and other companies can’t see what you’re doing online. In other words, won’t be able to sell any of your personal information stored on the VPN.
Don’t rely on free VPNs if you are strictly on the mission of outrunning our internet company and masking your online activities. Invest in a good premium VPN. Yes, that would be mean you will be paying for the VPN’s subscription on top of the Spectrum home WiFi prices. Spectrum and most internet service providers don’t block VPNs so don’t worry. You can safely encrypt your online activities.
Switch to Tor
Also called onion routing, Tor encrypts and anonymizes your data. It distributes your traffic through a network of volunteer-managed servers which are also called nodes. These servers are spread across the globe, making it harder to track your traffic’s origins. This means your ISP won’t be able to track anything!
It’s best to know what you are signing up for rather than going into shock later.