A virtual private network (VPN) gives you online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection. VPNs mask your internet protocol (IP) address so your online actions are virtually untraceable. Most important, VPN services establish secure and encrypted connections to provide greater privacy than even a secured Wi-Fi hotspot.

Your ISP sees your VPN connection because they can recognize an unfamiliar IP address. However, they cannot see anything specific about your online activity. This includes your search and download history, as well as the websites you visit.

What’s Visible To ISPs When You Use A VPN? 

While a VPN does keep you anonymous online, your ISP will still be able to see some of the following:

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  1. Your VPN connection: Your ISP will see that you connect to a VPN server but won’t know what you are doing. All information is encrypted and illegible.
  1. Your VPN server’s IP (Internet Protocol) address: Thanks to your ISP, you have access to the internet. They are responsible for sending your requests as data packets to a VPN server. So, they’ll always know the VPN’s IP address but not the data packet’s final destination.
  1. Your VPN’s protocol: To provide a safe connection, VPNs use a technology that offers different protocols (visible to your ISP). Even though your ISP sees what protocol you’re using, they cannot take any information from it, so it doesn’t affect you in any way. 
  1. Your connection timestamps: Your ISP can always see when you connect and for how long, but they won’t know what websites you’re on. Whether you use a VPN or not, they’ll see when you connect to the internet.
  1. Your bandwidth usage: When you browse, stream, download large files, or play games, your ISP may see how much bandwidth you use. But they won’t know what you’re using it for. 
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Apart from these, the only other important thing your service provider can detect is the fact that your actual online traffic is hidden from them. That means it loses access to the following information:

  • The websites you visit
  • The specific web pages you browse and the time you spend there
  • Your browsing and search history
  • The files you download from or upload to unencrypted websites
  • The info you type on unencrypted websites