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How Long Do Internet Providers Keep My History?

Miklos Zoltan

By Miklos Zoltan . 6 December 2022

Founder - Privacy Affairs

Justin Oyaro

Fact-Checked this

Your Internet Providers keep track of your online activities and are mandated to retain your history and other associated data for a while.

How long they can keep this data usually varies from country to country. Usually, this period may range from 90 days to 3 years.

Let’s look at why your internet providers retain your history for that long!

What Type of History Does My Internet Provider Keep?

The type of information your internet provider keeps from your history depends on the internet provider’s data retention laws and policy.

Usually, internet providers keep telecommunication data, tracking data, and website data. That is, your internet provider keeps a record of the websites you visit, their URLs, the duration of your visit, and the bandwidth used.

Some internet providers can even go ahead and keep a record of the details of the websites you visit. Generally, your internet providers can record all your online activities.

Why do Internet Providers Keep Your History?

Other than data retention laws, the reasons for keeping your history vary from one internet provider to another. Here are the main reasons why they keep your history:

Source of income

Your internet providers know nearly everything you do on the internet. This information is lucrative for businesses to other third parties, such as advertisers or anyone who wants to learn users’ preferences in a specific locale.

Thus, your history is a source of income for your internet provider. When selling this data to third parties, your history is aggregated into non-identifying data.

Other internet providers use this information to exploit their unsuspecting subscribers. This happens when internet providers offer packages such as secure internet or privacy add-ons to their subscribers at a fee to keep their internet safety.

Policing and law enforcement

Your internet provider is a good start for authorities such as the police when looking for a fugitive.

When authorities have a subpoena, internet providers work in conjunction with authorities by providing them with past and even recent data regarding the person of interest.

The history kept by your provider can help the police in profiling and even nabbing a fugitive.

Other authorities, such as those concerned with copyright infringements, also go to internet providers. This is how individuals who torrent pirated content get caught.

Government surveillance

Other arms of the government also use data from internet providers to keep tabs on persons of interest and matters of national security.

Can I Hide My Internet History from My Internet Provider?

Yes, there are several ways you can use to hide your history from your internet provider. However, you cannot hide some information, such as connection details that involve your IP addresses.

To hide your history, use privacy and security tools such as The Onion Router (Tor) and a VPN, and always ensure you use HTTPS on every website.

Check out our roundup of the best VPN providers if you want to pick a VPN.

Can I Ask My Internet Provider for My Internet History?

This depends on your internet provider. Most internet providers don’t give out this kind of information. Even authorities need a subpoena from a court of law to get this information.

Nonetheless, check with your internet provider. They might have a different policy regarding their subscribers.

Does My Internet Provider Delete My History?

Legally, internet providers must delete your history after the stipulated period elapses.

However, this might not be the case. Even if they delete your data, you will have new data if you continue to use the service.

Also, some internet providers may keep your data longer depending on their storage and even the operational cost it covers, for instance, advertisements.

Summary

Due to the mandatory data retention laws enforced in many countries, internet service providers must keep your history for a specified time.

If you are a privacy-conscious individual, you can limit the information your internet provider gets from your history. This is by using a VPN anytime you surf the internet.

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