Do VPNs Hide Your Search and Browsing History?
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We’ve all searched for pretty embarrassing things online, like “how to get a perfectly toned set of abs in two days.” number? just us? okay then. However, our browsing history is something we all want to keep private, which is why many turn to VPNs. But are VPNs really effective at hiding your browsing history? Keep reading to find the answer.
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Can VPNs Hide My Browsing History?
The short answer is yes, VPNs can hide your browsing history, but only to a certain extent. To better understand what that means, let’s take a look at what happens when you surf the internet with a VPN.
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How Browsing With VPNs Works
When you surf without a VPN, your internet traffic passes through your router and Internet Service Provider (ISP) before reaching the destination website. All three checkpoints (router, ISP, website) can see the traffic coming from your computer.
VPN adds encryption and a VPN server to the process. Here’s how it goes:
- A VPN encrypts your internet traffic before it leaves your computer.
- The encrypted traffic goes through the router and ISP, but because it is encrypted, neither of them can see its content.
- The VPN server decrypts the traffic and then sends it to the destination website, making it appear as if the traffic came from the server’s IP address instead of yours.
Can VPNs See My Browsing History?
Since the VPN server is the one that decrypts the encrypted traffic, it can see its contents. The most important question now is, “Does it log your browsing history?” Many VPN companies pledge no logs, but after testing dozens of VPNs, we know that’s not always the case. VPNs will log at least some types of data, so before choosing a VPN, you should read the companies’ privacy policies to learn:
- what they record
- How they secure your data
- What are they doing with it
Our review of the best VPNs can give you a quick overview of the privacy policies of the best VPNs.
Do VPNs hide my browsing history from ISPs?
VPNs encrypt all your internet traffic, effectively hiding your browsing history from your ISP. However, this does not mean that your ISP is blind to your activities. They may be able to tell you’re connected to the VPN and for how long, based on the fact that the encrypted traffic is going to the VPN server’s IP address. They can also see the volume of incoming and outgoing traffic, but the important thing is that they cannot see the content. If your only goal is to hide your browsing history from your ISP, a VPN will do the trick.
Why hide browsing history from ISPs?
The answer is simple: ISPs can do all kinds of suspicious things to our data. They can use it to target us with ads, sell it to third parties, or hand it over to the government. Even worse, since ISPs can store our online activity, hackers can hack their databases to get the data of millions of users. These types of attacks have happened before. While ISPs do what they can to prevent future violations, there is no guarantee that they will not happen again.
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Do VPNs hide my browsing history from the router?
Just like with ISPs, VPNs encrypt the internet traffic that goes through the router. Even those with network level access can’t see what you’re doing online. VPNs also allow you to bypass your router’s firewall, allowing access to websites that your router has blocked. However, VPNs use certain transmission protocols and ports when transferring data. Network administrators can monitor these ports to check if anyone within the network is using a VPN. For example, VPNs that use the IPsec protocol typically use a UDP port 500, so network administrators can block this port to stop VPN traffic.
How to Hide Your Browsing History from Your Employer
Sometimes employers use their router access to see what their employees are doing online. If you don’t want to be tracked, there is an easy solution: Get a VPN – If VPNs are allowed in your office, this is it. As mentioned above, there are ways to detect VPNs in the network, such as monitoring network ports, so you may run into problems if VPNs are not allowed.
Another solution, which works even if VPNs are not allowed in your office, is to use your mobile data for browsing. Employers can track what you do over the office network, but not when you’re on mobile data. Of course, you might get in trouble for being on your phone, but that’s another story.
Do VPNs hide my browsing history from Google?
Yes, VPNs hide your browsing history from Google, but only partially. Google doesn’t see your real IP address when you’re connected to a VPN, so it won’t show custom search results associated with your IP address. However, this is not the only way Google recognizes users. For example, your search history is associated with your Google account, so if your browser is logged in, Google can still see your browsing history. Google also uses sophisticated algorithms and techniques to identify its users, whether for advertising, analytics, or to personalize search results.3 With these algorithms, Google can still identify you based on search patterns, timing, and other metrics.
did you know: While most Internet users perform searches through Google, there are more privacy-focused search engines that don’t collect as much data as Google, such as DuckDuckGo, Ecosia and Tor (Onion). Consider using those if you want more privacy.
Does private browsing help?
Private browsing goes by several names, depending on the type of browser:
- Chrom: Incognito mode
- Safari: private browsing
- Internet Explorer / Edge: Privacy
- fire fox: private window
- opera: private mode
Essentially, Private Browsing prevents your browser from storing local data such as cookies, trackers, search history, and browsing history. What it doesn’t do is hide your internet activity from your ISP, router, and websites. So, while private browsing helps increase your privacy, we recommend using it with a VPN.
Do VPNs hide my search history?
Your search history, as in websites you’ve visited and previous search queries, is stored locally in your browser. Anyone with access to your computer can see your search history, and there’s nothing a VPN can do about it. So, if you want to hide your search history, the best solutions are to manually clear your browser history and use private browsing.
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How to hide your browsing history
While VPNs help hide your browsing history, there are things you can do on your own to take matters into your own hands.
Hide your browsing history
Browse privately. Private Browsing prevents your browser from remembering your sessions, so it’s great for hiding your browsing history from your roommates or anyone who has access to your physical devices.
Cover your tracks. Manually deleting your search and browsing history from your browser is another way to prevent tracking by people who have physical access to your devices.
change search engines. Privacy-focused search engines, such as DuckDuckGo, collect less data than Google, so they’re better suited for privacy-conscious users.
remove trackers. Removing local records such as cookies makes it more difficult for websites and search engines to identify you.
Change your DNS settings. Websites can use DNS requests to find out which websites you have accessed. To avoid this, change your DNS server from the default ISP server to a public DNS server like Google Public DNS
Use HTTPS everywhere. Many websites still do not have HTTPS, which means they are less secure. 6. HTTPS Everywhere is a browser extension that automatically converts HTTP websites to HTTPS, hence the name.
How to test your security online
It also helps in self-assessing your online security every now and then to see which areas need improvement. We have designed an online security test that will help you do exactly that. This test will help you assess:
- Password management
- browsing habits
- Social media privacy
- Online transaction security
- Virus protection
What else does a good VPN hide?
If you are looking for a good VPN to use, you should choose one that hides more than just your browsing history. Here are some other things that a good VPN should hide:
Just to summarize what we discussed above, VPNs hide your browsing history from your router, ISP, and search engine by encrypting your internet traffic. Encryption is done before the data leaves your device, and only the VPN server has the decryption key. Your router, ISP, or employers won’t see what you’re doing online.
The VPN changes your IP address to the IP address of the VPN server. As a result, a VPN effectively hides your location and protects your personal information from hackers and malicious websites. There are other advantages to hiding your IP address as well, such as giving you access to content that is not available to your original IP address location or hiding your torrenting activity from your peers.
Personally Identifiable Information
Hackers do not need to hide on the Internet to find targets. Sometimes they sit in airport lobbies or coffee shops, looking for unprotected devices on public Wi-Fi networks. With a little knowledge, they can intercept data sent over public Wi-Fis, such as contact details, passwords, Social Security numbers, online banking credentials, and other personally identifiable information (PII). VPNs encrypt all your internet traffic before it leaves your device, so even if someone intercepts traffic that contains PII information, they won’t be able to see the actual data.
Hackers also commit insurance frauds by stealing online medical data and insurance credentials. VPNs can protect you from fraud by masking your IP address and encrypting your internet traffic. By doing this, VPNs keep your medical data hidden from anyone who might try to take it.
Travel booking sites use IP addresses to identify site visitors so they can install or raise prices. For example, if you search for deals on flights to Aruba, …