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Did you know that your internet activity must first pass through your WiFi provider before reaching any websites or apps? If you trust your WifI provider, this might not be a problem for you, but where privacy is concerned, there are plenty of reasons you should not trust your WiFi owner.
One popular question that many internet users have is whether your WiFi provider can see your deleted search history.
The simple answer is yes. Your WiFi provider can see the sites you visit even if you delete them. Deleting your history from your devices or your browser does nothing to prevent your provider or any other third-party app or site, along with your connection, from viewing your data.
However, this ability to see your browsing history depends on a variety of factors such as:
- The type of router you have
- Whether there are any TLS/SSL certificates on the website that you visited
- Whether you have an active VPN connection
Keep in mind that your WiFi provider might also be using a packet sniffing tool— a software or hardware tool that intercepts, logs, and analyzes network traffic and data. Such tools help WiFi providers identify, classify, and troubleshoot network traffic by application type, source, and destination.
So, essentially every site you visit will leave a data footprint despite deleting it.
One way that you can try to get more privacy is by using a VPN. However, you must remember to have your VPN on at all times.
Now, let’s dive into how your WiFi provider can track your browsing history even if you wipe everything away.
Generally, the answer is yes. WiFi routers can track your internet history, although it’s not common.
That said, if you have an older WiFi router, you can relax a bit because older routers are not designed to track internet traffic on their own. One would have to have the right set of tools and technical knowledge to see your WiFi history through your router.
Newer routers, however, come with built-in tracking features and pre-configured software from companies like Netgear, so your browsing history can likely be tracked.
Your search history will be stored in the router. Unless you are the owner of the WiFi router, you cannot delete it, but since there is only a limited memory in routers, do a lot more searching, and you will overwrite it.
So what exactly can your WiFi router track and retrieve?
Your WiFi router can track more than just your browsing history; for example, your WiFi owner can see:
- How much time you spend online and on any particular website
- The exact time you connected to the internet
- The URLs on any websites you visit
- Unencrypted HTTP websites data
- Source & destination IP addresses
Your mobile phone is a data hub. So yes, your WiFi provider or owner can see your browsing history, even if you delete it. They can also view:
- The apps you’re using
- Unencrypted HTTP website data
- Source and destination IP addresses
Suppose your WiFi provider really wants to track what you’re doing online. In that case, there is software that can track even your most personal data, such as:
- Your call and text logs
- Text and voice messages
- Your images and photos
So, not only is your data visible to your WiFi provider, but hackers can also access your information through your WiFi and steal your financial information. The only way to improve your security posture is to use VPN encryption on every device you use.
I personally would not rely on the incognito mode for privacy. Many people mistakenly believe that activating the private mode on their device will hide browsing history from third parties and their WiFi provider.
The truth, however, is that incognito does not keep your data private. What it does is delete your browsing history from the device you use. So, essentially all it does is protect you from someone else accessing your computer and phone to check what you’ve been up to.
But your browsing history is still sent to your WiFi owner. Moreover, your IP address is still visible to the sites you visit. If you agree to cookies, they are also stored on your computer and used to track your activity.
The bottom line? There is little to no advantage in using the incognito mode, and it definitely won’t safeguard your digital footprint.
You’ve probably noticed that every website you visit has a URL that starts with either HTTP:// or HTTPS://.
So, what are they? HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, while HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. HTTPS is a more advanced version of HTTP.
They refer to two types of transfer protocols that websites and web browsers use to send and receive data packets over the web. The significant difference between these protocols is the implementation of a TLS/SSL certificate(a global standard security technology) on top of HTTP.
The TLS/SSL certificate allows secure communication between a web browser and a server to ensure that all the data passing through an SSL-backed website is encrypted to some extent.
So, in other words, if you visit a page on an HTTPS website, your WiFi admin won’t see the contents of the page and what exactly you were doing on there. However, they’ll still be able to see what websites you visited and what pages on those websites you opened.
So, how can you hide your browsing history from your WiFi provider?
As I’ve mentioned before, using an encrypted VPN app or software is one of the ways to protect your data.
This is because a VPN can establish a secure, encrypted connection between your device and the VPN server. Your WiFi provider won’t be able to decode or interpret any of your traffic, even as it passes right through their servers.
Top-of-the-range VPNs also come with some bonus features that you might enjoy.
2. Use a Tor Browser
The Onion Router (Tor) browser channels your internet traffic through a random series of different servers to hide the origin of your data and conceal your identity. It’s a very common method on the dark web.
Originally the Tor network was developed by the U.S. Navy and has since been declassified to become a nonprofit tool that helps protect users’ anonymity. The only drawback is that it was not optimized for casual browsing or streaming, so it’s really slow for things like video streaming, so you might not be able to enjoy Netflix or any other streaming sites.
If you want to beef up your privacy, you can double up and use a VPN to open the Tor browser.
The Domain Name System (DNS) was developed in the late 1980s when encryption wasn’t a hot topic like it is today. As a result, DNS requests by themselves are encrypted and vulnerable to tracking and hacking.
The DNS is like an address book for the internet. It lets your computer know where to go when you type in a website address by matching site names to IP addresses so your browser can find the exact link you requested.
As I’ve mentioned before, HTTPS is the encrypted version of HTTP (Hypertext Transmission Protocol).
For several years a tool called HTTPS Everywhere has provided a simple way to keep your data safe by ensuring that your browser uses encrypted HTTPS. However, this tool is becoming less necessary over the last few years as much of the internet is using HTTPS by default now.
Hopefully, I’ve managed to elaborate on the topic and provide you with enough information to know how safe your data is and what you can do to maintain some semblance of privacy in this increasingly data-fueled world.