Can Comcast, AT&T, or Any ISP See Your Browsing History?
In short, Yes, Comcast, AT&T, and any Internet service provider, can see your browsing history. But rest assured. You don’t have anything to worry about. Your Internet service provider isn’t some sort of shadowy big brother organization watching your every move.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how much your ISP knows about you, if it matters, and if you’ll be visited by people in dark suits anytime soon!
The Obvious Question – Does Your ISP Know You’re Torrenting?
As you know, using Torrent software and torrents is perfectly legal. Let’s say you’ve just completed your dissertation, and it includes 40 video files of you testing bio material in the lab. Naturally, you need to share your dissertation and video files with the other people in your group. In turn, you spend six days uploading it to the Cloud. Alternatively, you can share it all via torrents in a matter of hours. This is perfectly legal, as is downloading copyright free material, and/or material for personal use.
However, a minority of naughty people will share and download copyrighted material – that’s the sort of stuff that people worry about. In short, your ISP knows if you’re checking out torrenting sites, which, ironically, is legal, and they know if you’re downloading and sharing content. Unless you’re hiding your torrenting with something like ExpressVPN, then your ISP knows you’re doing it.
Does it matter if your ISP knows? In most cases, your ISP couldn’t care less about you torrenting, pirating, and so forth. However, if you’re downloading all the time, your ISP may start to throttle (slow down) your service under their fair-use guidelines.
Also, many ISPs share their data with copyright groups. This means you may receive a threatening email or two from a company saying, “Please don’t share our TV show because we worked hard on it,” or words to that effect.
The Second Obvious Question – Does Your ISP See Which Adult Sites You Visit?
Again, the answer is yes, but it doesn’t really matter. Unless you’re in a country that bans such content, your Internet service provider doesn’t care what sort of adult material you look at.
Even if you’re looking at terrorist stuff or child abuse images, your ISP still doesn’t care – but they do share information. For example, if you’re looking at bomb-making material, then your ISP is encouraged to share that information with your country’s law enforcement. The same is true if you’re visiting child abuse sites. In addition, the US has a very good conviction rate for people sharing child pornography content on torrenting platforms, even if the user doesn’t know they’re sharing through the upload feature on torrent platforms.
What Can Your ISP See When They View Your History?
The most pressing question is, when you type in something like your password to PayPal, can your ISP see it? No. When you type in things like your bank account passwords, or your PayPal passwords, and things of that nature, your bank can’t see what you’re typing.
In those cases, the information is encrypted. This means that your ISP receives the information, but they can’t understand it. The passwords you enter are encrypted by your web browser, and the signal is all scrambled as it travels through your ISP. In turn, it is then unscrambled (decrypted) when it reaches your bank, PayPal, etc.
Unless you’re using a VPN service, or a web browser that encrypts your viewing (like Duck Duck Go), then your ISP can see what you’re visiting. They may also glean some information on how long you stay on a website based on how much you download from it. For example, if they see you’re using lots of Internet data on YouTube, then they assume you’ve spent a long time on the YouTube website.
Can Your ISP Steal Your Identity?
A truly dedicated employee who works for an Internet service provider, could sift through your information and figure out which banks you use, which website services, who you buy from, and so forth. However, it would be like looking for a needle in a massive pile of sand. In short, it would be easier to become your friend on Facebook and get your information that way.
Plus, most of your important and/or sensitive information is hidden or encrypted when you use the Internet. But that isn’t even the biggest factor. The biggest factor in your favor is numbers. There are thousands upon thousands of people using Internet service providers –and there’s always safety in numbers. Even if an ISP is hacked, you’d be very lucky to lose information leading to having your identity stolen.
Do Comcast, AT&T and Other ISPs Make Money from Your Browsing History?
Yes, ISPs sell data in bulk. And even though this feels like a violation of your privacy, it’s no different to the government agencies who monitor traffic on our roads. You and your activity are part of the data being collected, but so much is being collected, you’re merely a drop in the ocean in terms of that data being harvested. Granted, they’re making money on your activity, but they’re not selling your personal information, they’re selling information on your activity.
Final Thought – Am I Being Watched or Targeted by My ISP?
The only time you’re targeted as a person is if you become of interest to a third party, such as copyright protection groups or law enforcement agencies. On the surface, learning that your Internet service providers are monitoring you seems like headline news. It seems like the sort of spammy news header built to evoke scary emotions. But the fact is it doesn’t matter. Even if you’re surfing the dark web, your ISP doesn’t care, they’re in the business to make money. To think that they’re carefully watching and judging every website you visited, isn’t in any way feasible.
Have you ever had any concerns about your ISP sharing your browsing history? If so, share your experiences in the comments section below.