The security-conscious Internet user is always concerned about what an ISP can see. Is your Internet Service Provider, or ISP, able to see what you are streaming on YouTube, Netflix, or other platforms? The answer could be a cause for concern.
The short answer is that an ISP is probably able to observe and monitor many of your Internet activities. Some of them choose not to do so. You should probably assume that your streaming history is fair game unless you are using a VPN to secure your browsing sessions.
What an ISP Can See and the Problems This Can Cause
Let’s first talk about the specific information that an ISP can access about your browsing sessions. An ISP is able to see the websites that you visit. They can also see what you click on when you are visiting a website, and some even monitor meta-data. There is a wealth of information that is available to the ISP which gives it considerable control over your privacy.
The risk to your personal information and identity is only the beginning of the potential problem. There is also the issue of surveillance and ethics as it relates to your personal security. Finally, you could be granting access to the types of videos you watch to marketing and research companies. This information can be used to identify many things about you including your political views, your shopping preferences, and what types of media have influence over you.
How an ISP Determines Your YouTube Viewing Activity
The majority of Internet users don’t know all the technical aspects of how the Internet works. They just see it as typing in a web address and visiting a website. Things are a little more complex than that. The information that you pass back and forth between your device and the Internet can be classified as data.
A simple explanation is to think of it like postal mail. When you send a request to a website like YouTube for a video, your device “mails” out the request in the form of data. The website receives the request and sends back the data in the form of packets. Within that data transmission are the details of your request, and the ISP can also see which server is hosting the information you want to access.
It all seems very complicated, but you only need to understand that your ISP is tasked with delivering your digital mail or information. It is able to do that because it has access to IP addresses which identify your device. Just like the address on your mailbox, the IP address can be linked to a specific device or connection.
The bottom line is that the ISP knows what you are requesting to watch on YouTube and where you are when you are watching it.
Geo Blocking and YouTube Content
Have you ever tried watching something on YouTube and discovered that your access was restricted because you live in a certain area? IP addresses are used to provide geographical gate-keeping. Some media creators do not license their content to certain areas because of copyright issues and known issues with piracy.
This is another area where a VPN can come in very handy to the Internet user. You can use a VPN to unblock geographical censorship by connecting to a VPN server located in a non-restricted area.
Why Would an ISP Care About What You Watch on YouTube?
An ISP could have many reasons for wanting to know what you are watching on YouTube. One of the biggest is the desire to market your preferences to advertisers.
Have you ever been watching a video on YouTube when suddenly an ad pops up? Almost like magic, this ad will be related to something that you like. How does YouTube or Google serve up tailored ads? They do it thanks to data collection which identifies your web browsing preferences.
Advertising is a big business, and browsing preferences are like gold to the marketing company. They are willing to pay top dollar to ISPs for information such as this, and there is no prohibition on an ISP for collection and selling the data. All they really need to do is let you know in the fine print of your agreement that data could be collected.
Another reason an ISP can collect data on its users is to satisfy a request from government agencies or other entities. Yes, someone could have an interest in what you are doing online for a legal reason. ISPs are not going to take a stand against authorities with a warrant when it comes to protecting your privacy.
Can You Hide Your Browsing and YouTube Activity?
There is some good news where this subject is concerned. A VPN can provide a simple but effective solution to the spying of an ISP. The secret lies in how a VPN works.
VPNs provide an encrypted tunnel. The data that we mentioned to begin this article has to pass through that tunnel. Encryption scrambles the data, making it impossible to decipher. In a sense, it makes gibberish of all those pieces of data mail. To reassemble the data, the key to the encryption is required. Again, it sounds technical but it is really pretty simple and effective in terms of how it is designed.
A VPN can also obscure your IP address. You can replace it with the IP address of the VPN server. So, when the sites you visit look they see the VPN server address. If you happen to be traveling abroad and want to watch your local programming, a VPN may be necessary if you want to avoid geo blocks.
The key to making this an effective solution is to find a VPN provider that satisfies a few key requirements. You want to choose a paid VPN service above all, because free VPN services can be ineffective and even dangerous. The worst of them will sell your data to marketers. They can also maintain logs which can compromise your security.
You may also find that free VPNs are not fast enough for you to watch streaming media on YouTube. At VPNAccounts.com we offer fast and reliable service that is affordable. We have multiple plans available. There are many server locations to choose from, and we also offer convenient apps for your devices. There is no software download required to use a VPN. Almost all devices made today come with a pre-installed VPN client for you to use.
With the proper measures and a VPN you can watch YouTube in peace. You won’t have to worry about whether or not your ISP can see what you are watching on YouTube. After all, your Internet activity should be something that you alone are able to control. Take back your privacy with a VPN.