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What are the Different Ways to Track Internet Usage?

By Tara Barnett
Updated May 16, 2024
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While some people are interested in tracking how much bandwidth a person uses, most people who want to track Internet usage are more interested in the content looked at on the computer. There are many different programs available for this purpose, although all do essentially the same thing. Typically, the procedure used to track Internet usage involves installing a keystroke logger or a special program that records websites looked at on the computer. There are sometimes privacy concerns when a company uses these programs on employees without their knowledge, but this type of program is usually legal to use in homes.

For many people with simple concerns about, for example, children using the Internet, a simple keystroke logger can help track Internet usage. This type of program will record every keystroke made on the computer, which means it not only records what a person writes and searches for, but it also records passwords and user names on various sites. Unfortunately, this can be a major problem if anyone other than someone's own children uses a computer, as the passwords of adults may be recorded by the logger. Also, when a person uses the mouse to click on things online, this information is not recorded.

In order to know which websites have been visited on a computer, it is usually necessary to install a type of Internet tracking program. These are sold under many names, including nanny programs and computer monitoring programs. Many businesses where employees use computers employ this type of program to make sure that employees are actually doing work on the computers. This type of program is more reliable than simply checking the browser history, as it cannot be deleted by the user in most cases, although some savvy users may find a way around the program.

It is also sometimes possible to track Internet usage on a computer to which someone does not have regular access. This can be ideal if the computer is a work computer or is in a child's bedroom. The way this type of program works is by sending regular reports to an email address rather than requiring that a person log onto the computer to access the reports. Often, this means that monitoring can be secret as long as the person using the computer does not know much about computers.

For businesses and large corporations, personally tailored solutions can often be found. These can be fully invisible to employees and keep track of everything done on a server. At home, it is usually not as important to track Internet usage with such precision. Even knowing about websites visited and keystrokes can be enough to figure out what a person is doing online.

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Discussion Comments
By pastanaga — On Mar 21, 2014

@Ana1234 - Honestly, I would be very concerned about having other people on my internet, even if they are family. If something illegal is done on your internet connection, then you can be held liable for it, even if you aren't the one who did it.

This is the main reason people need to make absolutely sure that they secure their wi-fi so that no one can hack into it. There are people who basically drive around with their laptops looking for free connections so they can do whatever illegal things they want without getting caught.

I'm not super paranoid about it. I wouldn't really want to log every single thing that happens on my connection as long as it was secure, because I trust my family. But I also wouldn't give out the password to just anyone and I'd change it if there was any chance of it getting out.

By Ana1234 — On Mar 21, 2014

@bythewell - I would be more concerned about bandwidth usage than the content. I don't have kids myself, but my (much younger) cousins were visiting us with their parents over Christmas and I don't think any of them looked up from their phones and tablets the whole time they were here. Our internet use seemed to triple in only a few days. I'd hate to think what they would go through at their own homes unless their parents monitor them.

I almost feel like it would become a kind of currency, like pocket money. Instead of getting ten dollars a week, you'd get a gig of data for your device.

By bythewell — On Mar 20, 2014

After your kids get to a certain age, I think you should do away with this kind of tracking. If they find out that you're doing it, they will feel betrayed. If they already know that you're doing it, they will just hide things from you. And even if they never find out, there are probably things about them that you just don't want to know. Or things that you might misunderstand if they aren't there to explain them to you.

There are a lot of shocking websites out there that teenagers will visit once because they are curious. But if you see they've done that, it's always going to worry you unless you talk to them about it which leads to the problems I already mentioned.

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