ISPs can and often do keep records and logs of their customers’ use of their
systems. How detailed those logs might be, as well as how long they’re kept, is
anyone’s guess. The ISPs and other service providers that can keep logs don’t
make public what is logged or for how long.
‘How long do companies like Earthlink keep track of the websites you’ve been on? Or is there a certain amount of time before they get rid of that data to make way for new data? Or do they just keep it all?’
You know, there’s actually no way to answer this. There is, two things, one, there is certainly no standard; there’s no accepted common practice that says, we, the random ISP, we all keep data for this long and then we do ‘x’ with it.
In reality, the answer varies dramatically from ISP to ISP and from web service to web service. And by that I mean, sites like, let’s say Ask Leo!.
There’s a log that shows what pages were accessed and by what IP address. I keep that as long as it’s convenient, which will vary depending on how much hard disk space I have on my server and potentially just how I’m feeling that day. It’s also changed when I’ve moved servers because the base software that’s installed automatically cleans up the logs and purges things on a schedule that, to be honest, I couldn’t tell you what it is.
Some websites keep them for years; some don’t keep any at all others keep them for a day.
There is legislation afoot at the national level in the United States to require ISPs and service providers to keep data for a specific amount of time; I believe that amount of time is two years. But, as you might imagine, it’s fairly controversial legislation and it may not pass or it may not pass without some major modifications.
So the short answer is: ‘I don’t know; nobody does.’ Companies don’t make that information public, but if you are concerned about what’s being kept, then you might want to…these are actually some the answers that started this webinar like talking about things like anonymization and the like.