Does a VPN protect against an ISP gathering your data?

I’m unclear if a VPN protects against your ISP in terms of privacy. If I run a VPN, aren’t my requests routed to my ISP first? What prevents an ISP from gathering data and then passing the traffic to the VPN?

I have a basic understanding of how VPNs work. Yet, aren’t requests still headed into and out of my ISP? I get some traffic may be encrypted and, therefore, the ISP would have to go to the effort to decrypt. Still, isn’t lots of data that I, an average Internet user with low threat levels, may be feeding my ISP for storage, etc?

Would someone expand on this topic, please?

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I think you might be missing the fact that this is simply impossible for your ISP to do in the first place.*

When you connect to your VPN provider, you have a key to encrypt your data, and your VPN provider has a key to decrypt your data. It doesn’t matter how many hands your data passes through in between you and the VPN provider, nobody else has those keys so nobody else can read it.


Well, in a realistic timeframe anyways. Future quantum computing advancements could make breaking encryption easier, meaning if your ISP stored all your traffic now maybe they could decrypt it in like 15-30+ years, but it’d mean they’d have to store it for 15-30+ years which is not economical, and it’d only be a problem if the data was still relevant, which for most people “the website I visited 30 years ago” isn’t going to be a massive concern. So for most people this can be ignored basically.


They will, however, be able to see that you’re using a VPN. It may not affect OP’s concern, but just something for them to keep in mind.

From my uninformed position, I assume your ISP would know that a particular device is using a VPN to connect to the internet for as long as the user is online.


Ok, super helpful. Let me make sure I get this.

My ISP may know that I am using a VPN. (I’m OK with that because I don’t see a downside for my low threat level.)

The data sent from from my end is encrypted and passes through the ISP to the VPN which can decrypt. with its keys. Vice versa for inbound traffic from VPN to my machine. Therefore, the ISP cannot do much with the encrypted data other than to store it (in an encrypted state).

Please correct me if I am off here.

Yep - that’s correct.

Note that you are basically shifting your trust from your ISP to your VPN provider. Your VPN provider is essentially your virtual ISP. They now see what your ISP would have seen. So choose a trustworthy VPN provider.


Good point, store now, decrypt later attacks are only an issue if you are transferring highly sought after data.

Your ISP will see the destination of your traffic, but if connected to a VPN, the destination of your traffic is always the VPN server. The ISP will see you’re always connecting to the VPN server, so they don’t know about what you’re browsing.

Your data is encrypted between the server and your computer, using a protocol like WireGuard or OPENVPN. Your ISP cannot decrypt it because its end to end encrypted, only the VPN server can decrypt the data that is encrypted on your computer.

You need to decide if you trust your VPN company. I trust ProtonVPN but there are some other good ones .

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