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Online Tracking: Can an ISP Track a VPN User?

With online tracking becoming a bigger and bigger hot topic, especially with all the social media tracking going on, your next step is to wonder about your ISP. What sort of data can your ISP track, what’s the extent of this online tracking done, and what can your VPN hide?

I’ll answer those questions, and help you get the online privacy that you want. Nothing will ever be perfectly 100% hidden, but you can certainly take back your privacy and not be spied on every moment of your Internet using life!

Online tracking at the ISP level

How an ISP could track a VPN

As with all online activity, VPNs have a unique set of characteristics which can be identified. Your ISP will be able to ‘see’ that you’re using a VPN, but since everything sent over it is encrypted they won’t be able to ‘see’ what you’re doing.

The two most obvious ways that your ISP will know you’re using a VPN are:

  1. Your ISP has to know where to take your traffic to from your computer. Since you’re connected to a VPN server it knows to take your traffic to that server. There’s simply no way to hide this as your ISP has to know where to take your traffic, or data packets, to in order for you to browse the Internet. The point of a VPN, however, is that your ISP can’t know what’s in those packets and know what you’re doing online. The encryption hides it.
  2. VPN services always operate through similar ports. The specific port used by your VPN will change based on a number of factors, but the most common ports are port 1723 for PPTP traffic, and port 1701 for L2TP. It’s the same for email, port 25, and displaying web pages, port 80. Your ISP can see which ports you’re using, and if it’s a VPN port they could deduce it from that. But still, because of the encryption, they won’t know what you’re doing.

online tracking ISPSo your ISP has two ways of being pretty sure when you’re using a VPN. With your VPN on, they still have no way of knowing what you’re doing,  or doing any online tracking of your online activity. They won’t know which websites you’re visiting, what you’re streaming, or if you’re torrenting.

What this means for online tracking

When you’re using a reliable VPN, this means that you’re free to:

  • Send any email you wish without fear that your ISP knows who you’re emailing, or reading your emails.
  • Visit any website you want without your ISP recording where you’re going. All they’ll see is traffic going to the VPN server.
  • Share sensitive data, such as legal documents and workplace information without fear of it being intercepted by a nosey ISP.
  • Use torrents without fear of getting a DMCA notice in the mail from your ISP.

In short, your ISP can see that you’re using a VPN but they can’t figure out what you’re doing. They can’t track your online activity. You have your freedom once more.

The trick is to be sure that you’re not connecting to a VPN which tracks you! That’s a whole other issue, but I will quickly advise you to use either IPVanish, our top ranked VPN provider, or Private Internet Access, who both do not track what you do online.


Feature image via Gajus / Shutterstock

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