WiFi connections can almost be found anywhere. It’s probably the easiest way to connect to the internet, especially with portable devices. Accessing the internet through WiFi is also relatively fast compared to a wired connection.
However, some users are curious as to “can the WiFi owner see what I search?”, especially when using a public network or another wireless network. While you’re given access to their network, it sometimes isn’t worth the risk when the owner can see your browsing and search history.
In this guide, we’ll answer if your WiFi owner can see what sites you visit on your phone or another device, and how you can prevent this from happening. Read this guide to know more.
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Can WiFi Track What I Search?
The quick answer to this is—Yes, your browsing history can be tracked. But, it can depend on a few factors, such as the router’s model. If you’re connected to an older router, chances are your browsing history cannot be tracked easily; it needs an expert to gain access to it since they’re not really designed that way.
However, newer routers can easily track your device’s browsing history through logs. Users that have admin access to the router can keep an eye on what sites you’re currently visiting. If you visit sites that use the HTTP protocol, the admin can also see which web pages you have visited.
What Do Exactly WiFi Owners See?
Besides your browsing history, the owner can also see the following details:
- The duration when you were online
- Time spent on a specific website
- The website name, visited web pages, and URLs
- The time you were connected to the router
Apart from WiFi owners, your WiFi provider can also have an idea of your phone activities, such as:
- App Logs – All applications you used while connected to the WiFi network and the time consumed while using those apps.
- Call Logs – Calls that were made while connected to the WiFi network.
- Message Logs – Given that you’re using a messaging app that’s not end-to-end encrypted, all messages and conversations can be seen by the WiFi provider.
But, when it comes to questions, such as “can you see your search history on your WiFi bill?”, it’s not possible. Only relevant information such as the payment due, type of WiFi plan, and other billing information is placed on your WiFi bill. On the other hand, browsing and search histories are kept in the provider’s servers.
How to Hide Browsing History From WiFi Owners
As you can see, WiFi connections can potentially interfere with your online privacy. Although data such as browsing and search history, visited web pages, and time spent online are considered sensitive information, they can be freely seen by users with admin access.
It even gets more complicated once confidential data—like messages, passwords, emails, and payment details—can be potentially seen through this method. These can also be recorded and exploited in the future if you’re not careful.
To have peace of mind while browsing the internet using another WiFi, you can follow these methods. Remember to go through each one and see which works for you the most.
Method #1: Use the Tor Browser
Tor or The Onion Router is a free and open-source software that you can use to browse the internet anonymously. It prevents third-party trackers from keeping an eye on what sites you visit. Also, cookies, browsing history, and other browsing data are automatically cleared after using the browser.
However, this browser is not the best when using it for high-bandwidth tasks, like video and music streaming. It’s also relatively slower than a regular browser, so keep that in mind.
Method #2: Use a VPN
Another way to hide your browsing data from WiFi owners is to use a VPN or Virtual Private Network. It keeps you anonymous by altering your device’s IP address, location, and other information to hide your identity online. Also, compared to the Tor browser, a VPN will browse faster and can handle high-bandwidth tasks.
One thing to keep in mind though is that using a paid or trial version of a VPN is safer than using a free version. Not only is it significantly slower, but you can still potentially be tracked by the VPN’s servers, which should not happen if you use a paid version. So, choose and invest wisely in the VPN services on the internet.
Method #3: Use a Separate Router (and maybe ISP)
Since the search history is saved on the router, if you have your own router then your search history will be kept from the WiFi owners router (and away from their prying eyes). The only issue with this method is that the Wifi owner may not want to share their ISP connection details with you. If this is the case, then you can get two Internet Providers in your house – and you can use the new connection.
WiFi is a handy feature that can let you access the internet online. However, some WiFi owners can track your browsing data while connected and use it for fraudulent activities. Therefore, this guide can hopefully help you in keeping your privacy online by using trusted methods.