Follow Us

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

Is your ISP spying on you?

Here we check out just what exactly your ISP can see about you

Article comments

Arcticsid asked the Answer Line forum if his ISP can "sit a screen, and see everything you are doing at any given time?"

Not quite, but it's frightening close. Your Internet service provider tracks what IP addresses you contact, which effectively means they know the web sites you're visiting. They can also read anything you send over the Internet that isn't encrypted. Whether they actually do that is an open question.

According to Dan Auerbach, a Staff Technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, what they mostly collect is metadata--things like IP addresses and port numbers. With a little bit of work, this information can tell them who you're communicating with and help them make an educated guess about whether you visited a Web page or sent e-mail. As Auerbach told me in a phone conversation, they're tracking "who you're sending mail to but not the content."

So what about content? Can they see what pages on that Web site you visited, and what you wrote in that e-mail? Yes, they can, if they choose to do so. But that's a lot of work with very little return for them. And there are legal limits. For instance, in the United States, ISPs can only share content with the government (I'll let you decide if you find that comforting). On the other hand, there are no such restrictions on with whom they can share your metadata.

There's "a lot of opacity surrounding what they actually do," says Auerbach. "It's difficult to know what a given ISP is doing with the data." Privacy policies, of course, are seldom written to be clear and understandable.

How long do they retain the information? "Roughly between six months and two years," estimates Auerbach.

And how can you protect yourself?

First, embrace any technology that encrypts the data for its Internet travel. If you need privacy, use Secure Socket Layer (SSL--secure web pages with URLs starting with https) or a virtual private network (VPN).

If you're really paranoid, you might want to consider Tor, a free program and service that makes it much more difficult to track where you're going online. For more information, see Tor Network Cloaks Your Browsing From Prying Eyes.

Read the original forum discussion.


More from Techworld

More relevant IT news


VbCracker said: Travilling as shadow of you wanna keep save in the Internet World

Send to a friend

Email this article to a friend or colleague:

PLEASE NOTE: Your name is used only to let the recipient know who sent the story, and in case of transmission error. Both your name and the recipient's name and address will not be used for any other purpose.

Techworld White Papers

Choose – and Choose Wisely – the Right MSP for Your SMB

End users need a technology partner that provides transparency, enables productivity, delivers...

Download Whitepaper

10 Effective Habits of Indispensable IT Departments

It’s no secret that responsibilities are growing while budgets continue to shrink. Download this...

Download Whitepaper

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving

Enterprise information archiving is contributing to organisational needs for e-discovery and...

Download Whitepaper

Advancing the state of virtualised backups

Dell Software’s vRanger is a veteran of the virtualisation specific backup market. It was the...

Download Whitepaper

Techworld UK - Technology - Business

Innovation, productivity, agility and profit

Watch this on demand webinar which explores IT innovation, managed print services and business agility.

Techworld Mobile Site

Access Techworld's content on the move

Get the latest news, product reviews and downloads on your mobile device with Techworld's mobile site.

Find out more...

From Wow to How : Making mobile and cloud work for you

On demand Biztech Briefing - Learn how to effectively deliver mobile work styles and cloud services together.

Watch now...

Site Map

* *