Can My Internet Provider See My VPN?

Michael Gargiulo - CEO, VPN.com

By: Michael Gargiulo, CEO at VPN.com

Updated: 1:48 PM ET Fri, August 28th 2020

ISP = Internet Service Provider

It’s well known that Internet providers track and log the activity of their customers. As much money as ISPs make from monthly Internet plans, they make exponentially more from selling your data to advertisers. 

Fortunately, a VPN can help you regain control of your privacy from your Internet provider. We’re going to explain how while answering the following questions:

  • Can my Internet provider see my VPN?
  • Does a VPN hide you from your ISP?
  • What does my ISP use when I use a VPN?

 

Your ISP Can See Everything You Do Online

ISPs have access to a nearly unlimited amount of information about their customers. Just think about how much someone could learn about you from your online activity; what they could glean from your emails, medical records, digital transactions, search engine queries, and every website you’ve ever visited. Your Internet provider collects all of this data, and they aren’t shy about using it.

The largest ISPs have made billions of dollars selling private data — all without the consent of their paying customers. The practice became so rampant that the US government passed a law in 2017 prohibiting Internet providers from mining and selling customer data.

While the legislation does provide users a modicum of protection, your ISP can still see everything you do online, and they still maintain logs of your activity. You don’t have to be paranoid to view that as an invasion of privacy.

So if you’re using a VPN to hide your data from your ISP (which we recommend), it’s important to know what they can and can’t see.

Can My Internet Provider See My VPN?

It’s possible that your ISP can see you’re connected to a VPN server, however not every ISP can detect that you’re using a VPN. Read your Internet provider’s privacy policies to gain a better understanding of what they are able to ascertain.

What’s clear is that your ISP can’t see who you are or anything that you do online when you have a VPN activated. Your device’s IP address, the websites you visit, and your location are all undetectable. The only thing that your ISP can “see” when you’re using a VPN is encrypted data traveling to a remote server.

Does A VPN Hide You From Your ISP?

When a VPN is active, your ISP can’t determine your identity. Typically, Internet providers identify their users by your IP address or personal information you enter online. 

A VPN hides your device’s IP address and encrypts everything you do online, effectively making you anonymous. So yes, a VPN does hide you from your ISP.

What Does My ISP See When I Use A VPN?

Not much. Your Internet provider can see you’re connected to an encrypted server and nothing further. Some ISPs may be able to determine that server is part of a VPN, but there’s no issue with that. Using a VPN is perfectly legal in most countries, and ISPs aren’t legally permitted to throttle VPN connections if they recognize them.

Essentially, all your ISP sees when you use a VPN is a blur — they know someone is connected, but they don’t know who or what they’re doing.

What To Look For When Choosing A VPN Service

  • A Zero/No Logs policy. We don’t recommend using any VPN that logs your data. The entire point of using a VPN is to regain control of your privacy, including from the service provider. Always read
  • The latest encryption protocols. An out of date encryption protocol can compromise your security. Make sure your provider offers 256-bit encryption protocols. We prefer OpenVPN, it’s the most recent encryption protocol and offers great security without compromising speed.
  • A solid history with no data leaks. A VPN with a track record of compromised user data is a red flag. Your VPN provider is trusted with protecting your data, so it’s important they have a solid reputation of doing so for other users.
  • Plenty of servers spread around the world. More server locations means more bandwidth to go around between users and more opportunities for content access. The VPNs we recommend often have thousands of servers across dozens of countries. Research the server locations of VPNs before subscribing to ensure your needs will be met.
  • Access to streaming services. Content access is one of the most common reasons for using a VPN, however not every service works with streaming sites. If you want to use a VPN to watch Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO, or Disney Plus, make sure the provider is able to grant you access to those sites.

Above all, you need to be able to trust your VPN provider. They’ll be able to see where you’re connecting from and the sites you visit, so it’s important you know that they aren’t misusing that data. Ideally, any VPN you use won’t be logging any information about your time online.

Keep in mind that free VPN services are rarely able to offer you this piece of mind. They still have to make money to operate and often do so by selling user data — just as your ISP would.

Don’t ever use a VPN until you are entirely confident with their ability to responsibly protect your data and identity.

Can My Internet Provider See My VPN? Probably not.

Even if your Internet provider notices a VPN is in use, it’s unlikely they know which VPN service it is, and they definitely don’t know who is using it. In fact, we recommend using a VPN to regain control of your privacy from your ISP.

Enjoy peace of mind every time you go online, knowing that nobody — not even your Internet provider — is monitoring what you do.

 

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