Does VPN hide your browsing and search history

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A VPN hides your online browsing from ISP and protects your privacy online. But what about your browsing history and past searches on Google? Will it stay hidden? The answer is not that straight forward. There are few things you need to understand  – which history and searches a VPN can hide and from whom.

Rank

VPN Service

Rating

Price

Website

1

NordVPN

$3.49 - $11.95

2

ExpressVPN

$6.67 - $12.95

3

Surfshark

$2.49 - $11.95

4

Private Internet Access

$2.69 - $9.95

5

PureVPN

$0.99 - $10.95

For better understanding, let’s take a look at what path your information takes when browsing. Once you type a query, the information travels from your browser to a router, and then to ISP. From there it reaches the destination such as Google search website.

Along the way, the connections can leave a trace on every part of the web and device that it traveled. These devices, ISP, and even your own browser can log such browsing history.

Using a VPN hides your browsing and search history, but only on certain points in the chain. 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.

Using a VPN hides your browsing and search history from your ISP. It uses strong encryption so that your ISP can only see the connections to a VPN server. The websites you visited and search history are completely private. The only thing that ISP can still see is the times when you tried to connect to a VPN.

A VPN can only hide the search history from Google up to a certain extent. You can still be identified when typing search queries even if connected to a VPN. Google owns the search engine and collects past searches. Your search history will still be visible and can be linked to you for a few reasons.

Typing queries while signed in to Google account is one of the easiest ways to link the searches back to you. A VPN does not hide your identity from Google if you use their account. To hide search history from Google you need to log out first.

Google also uses sophisticated detection algorithms and tracking techniques to identify its visitors. That’s why a VPN can only partially hide your search history from it. The methods that can reveal you can be stored cookies, browser or OS used, or even GPS location.

The answer is simple – do not use Google. I know that sometimes it’s not possible, but so far it’s the best way. DuckDuckGo is an alternative search engine that does not log or collect any data. All the searches you make there are private.

Sometimes using a different search engine is not an option and you still want to use Google.

Here’s how to hide your search history from Google:

  1. Log out of your Google Account
  2. Connect to a VPN server
  3. Disable Browser GPS detection
  4. Open Incognito Window
  5. Search on Google

The home-type routers usually do not have enough memory to keep any browsing history, but network logs can still be collected. However, the complex ones used by ISP do log some data.

Using a VPN will hide any browsing activities from any router. It will prevent anyone from seeing the websites you visit with strong encryption. However, the times when you connect to a VPN server can not be hidden even on a router. 

VPN hides browsing history from router

All VPN traffic is encrypted when it leaves your device. It hides the websites you visit from both home-type and enterprise routers. Extra benefit VPNs offer is that it can bypass firewall rules and internet restrictions on routers at work, school, or ISP.

An employer can watch the traffic just like any ISP would. It can have the logging system implemented that would help see your browsing history. A VPN would hide your browsing activity from your employer and can unblock websites at work.

A VPN can not hide the browsing history that browser stores locally. VPN apps have no control over another application’s processes. You must manage or delete your searches and browsing history from your device manually. The best way to prevent logging your online activities is to use a VPN along with Incognito Window.

The private browsing window automatically deletes any history files once it is closed. Combined with a VPN it is an excellent combination for online privacy. Good service such as NordVPN would never keep any browsing history on their servers. It is an independently audited VPN that has proven to have a strict no-log policy.

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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