What does a VPN hide and what does a VPN not hide? Can you browse the Internet
100% anonymously when you go online using a VPN? Or will your employer, Internet
service provider, or government, still be able to see what websites you visit?
If you are new to the world of online privacy, understanding what a VPN can and
can’t do can seem confusing. Here, we’ll, therefore, look at everything you need to
What Does a VPN Hide About Your Online Identity?
Everybody has different reasons for using virtual private networks. For some, privacy
isn’t a priority at all. Instead, they use VPNs to benefit from superior online security.
Here, though, we’ll look at what a VPN can and can’t do, specifically in terms of
A VPN Can Hide Your Physical IP Address and Location
Every device that connects to the Internet has a physical IP address . This is an
address that is built-in to devices by product manufacturers.
When connecting to the Internet without a VPN, your ISP (and any websites you
visit) can see the IP address of your Internet router. Many websites also keep records
of IP address details, with the aim of matching records with your real-world identity.
- When you go online without a VPN, websites can see your router IP address, and
your Internet service provider details.
- Coupling your router IP address with your ISP information, allows websites to
identify your country of residence. (Where you are connecting to the Internet
- If connecting to the Internet directly (without a router) websites can see the IP
address of your computer itself.
In most cases, IP and ISP details are enough to allow anyone with access to this
information to pinpoint your approximate location. (Generally, this means the street
or area where you live, not your exact address.)
Thankfully, when you use a VPN, websites you visit are unable to see either your
router IP address or ISP information.
VPNs Can Hide Your Web Browsing Information
VPN services like Shielded VPN hide IP address details by routing your connection to
the Internet through private servers. While routing your connection, VPN client
software also encrypts all of the information that your device sends across the
By encrypting all data that devices send and receive online, Internet service
providers are unable to track your online activity or past web browsing history.
- When using a VPN, your ISP can not see what websites you visit.
- VPN encryption makes it impossible for ISPs to see when users are downloading,
torrenting, or streaming content online.
- As well as preventing ISPs from tracking you online, VPNs prevent individual
websites from tracking your online activities.
What Can a VPN Not Hide?
Using a reputable VPN is an easy and effective way to completely hide your IP
address and browsing habits from ISPs. However, there are limits to what a VPN can
If you use your real identity to login to online services like Google, platforms will still
be able to monitor your online activity. It is important to be aware of this, as search
engines like Google do keep records of logged in user web searches.
It is also worth keeping in mind that some employers use special tools to monitor the
online activity of employees on company workstations.
- Employers and some private networks use network sniffers to monitor
- Some employers use software tools that take automatic screenshots of
computer displays to track what websites employees visit.
- Many employers will know that you are attempting to use a VPN, even when
they are unable to track what you do when browsing anonymously.
Do VPNs Really Work to Keep User Identities Private?
When a VPN is put to use responsibly, it is possible to completely anonymize your
online identity. However, to do so, VPNs are best made use of on private computers.
Using a VPN on a work PC or a device you share with others an be risky.
If you really care about your online privacy, it is also important not to use existing
accounts for services like GMail. At the very least, you should set up alternative
accounts with email providers, that use strong aliases that can’t be matched with
your real identity.
Online freelancer, owner of Shielded VPN and long time website creator and designer. Happily married man and father of two amazing boys.