The internet isn’t as ‘free’ and ‘open’ as it used to be. Everything you do today is logged. Every site you visit, every search you type into Google, and every status update you like is recorded in some virtual database. Your ISP keeps track of everything you do, and while they may or may not be passing this information to your local and state governments, they are definitely using this information to sell to other companies.
Here’s a look at what information your ISP can see and the steps you can take to help prevent it from spying on you.
Your ISP Is Not Your Friend
Your ISP, or internet service provider, says a lot about you. It reveals your country, state, zip code and even the street you live on. When you combine that with all the sites you visit and the pages you like, you begin to see an incredibly accurate–and downright terrifying–portrait of who you are.
Ever been looking at a something online only to see it popping up over and over in ads? That’s because companies use your IP address to target specific ads straight to your browser.
Not sure how to check your virtual address? Here’s a quick and easy way to check your IP address and see what information it’s collecting.
Staying Safe Online
Your IP address is used to identify you online, so it makes sense that to hide your information you need to hide your IP. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use a virtual private network, or VPN.
A VPN lets you hide your own IP address and take on an IP in another city or country of your choice. Most VPNs also encrypt your internet traffic–thereby letting you browse without having to worry about your private information being collected or leaked.
There are hundreds of VPNs on the market today, so it’s important that you know how to separate the good from the bad. A simple search on Google should bring up a list of secure VPN services.
First, make sure your VPN is logless, as in they don’t keep logs. A VPN isn’t worth having if they’re logging your activity.
Second, make sure your VPN offers strong encryption settings. A good rule of thumb is to look for VPNs that offer 256-bit encryption (as this is the highest level of encryption today.)
Third, make sure you’re paying for your VPN service. Free VPNs run on public servers and make money by exploiting your privacy by bludgeoning your browser with cookies, while paid services host their own VPN servers and therefore work toward keeping your private information secure.
Keeping Your Information Private
Of course, VPNs do a lot more than just protect your privacy; they also help you bypass geographical restrictions by letting you access sites that may not have been available before. They’re great for encrypting your online network, and they’re also great for traveling. They can also be used to secure any unsecured hotspot, so it’s really helpful to have them when you’re browsing public wifi in a cafe or airport.
With these tips in mind, you should have a much easier time finding the right VPN service to protect your private info.