Does VPN hide your browsing and search history

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Browsing with a VPN hides your internet activities and protects your privacy online, but what about the times where you searched for something – will that thing stay in your browsing history? There are few things you need to understand  – which history and searches a VPN will hide and from whom.

To start going into answers let’s take a look, what path your information takes once you type a query into the browser. The information over the internet travels from your browser via a router to a more complex networking infrastructure owned by ISP until it reaches the destination such as the Google search website. Along the way, it can leave a trace on every part of the web and device that it went through. Such browsing history can be logged by your browser, router or even ISP. Using a VPN hides your browsing and search history, but this is not as straightforward as it seems – there are still a few things a VPN can not hide. Let’s see how VPN can protect your browsing and search history in more detail.

One of the biggest benefits of a VPN that it hides your internet activities including browsing and search history from any ISP. This is what a VPN is very good at – it encrypts the traffic and routes it via a VPN server so that only the connections to the VPN server can be seen by your ISP. All the things you tried to visit or searched for will be hidden from your ISP and the only browsing history that can be seen is the time you connected to a VPN server (which does not tell anything anyway).

A search history is just like your browsing history – it can be hidden from ISP with a VPN very easily. However, searching history can be also stored on your local browser as well as the Google website itself. Hiding search history from a search engine such as Google itself is another question.

Using a VPN while you search on Google will not hide what you were looking for or what search queries you typed. Google owns the search engine and collects the data you tried to search. Google can see that you are querying from a VPN server’s IP address, which gives you only some degree of privacy, but not enough. All these queries and search history could be linked to you, especially if you used the search while logged in into your Google account.

If you’d like to hide your search history – do not use Google. There is a search engine called DuckDuckGo that does not log or collect any data on the queries you make making it the best choice to hide search history. In addition, to really hide search history while on VPN use a browsers Incognito window, as well as log out of any Google accounts while performing the search – doing those things along the VPN should be enough to hide it.

When it comes to routers, many of the home-type ones do not really have much memory to keep big log files. Some, that are more complex and used by an ISP can have network monitoring and logging implemented. Since VPN encrypts all the traffic traveling from your device, that means it would hide the history from both home-type and ISP routers. Using a VPN the only thing that can be seen in a router’s history is just the connection to a VPN server. With a VPN, not only history can be hidden but you can also bypass firewall rules that can be set up in the router as well.

An employer can monitor the traffic just like an ISP would. It can have the logging system implemented that would help see your browsing history. Using a VPN would not only hide your browsing activity from your employer but would also circumvent any censorship or website blocks in your workspace.

You could read more on how to hide your internet activities from your employer.

Even though a browser application is installed on your device, a VPN does not hide any browsing history that your browser collects. A VPN app can not control another application and modify neither browsing nor search history. To hide your browsing history in your browser it is best to use an Incognito Window, that would delete any files associated with that session once it is closed, or delete the history logs manually.

To summarize what type of search and browsing history does VPN hide and from whom, here’s a table to make it more clear:

Hides fromBrowsing historySearch history
ISPYesYes
Google Search engineYesNo
RouterYesYes
Employer or UniversityYesYes
Browser (Chrome, FireFox)NoNo

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