Both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are right in here since this topic is kind of a grey area: in much the same way as VPNs, the Usenet uses SSL so you’re only partially visible to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Having said that, the way that your ISP can only see up to the point you enter the encrypted VPN tunnel is the same as when you enter the Usenet. All they see is a variable amount of connections between you and your Usenet provider. This is why VPNs are often good and common additions to the Usenet: not only are you using the Usenet’s SSL but you can add another layer of security on top of that, making it close to impossible for ISPs to tell precisely what it is that you are downloading.
But what about the providers themselves? Nowadays the big majority of Usenet companies let you connect to the Usenet via SSL secure ports, so you’re pretty safe when downloading. However, what they can do is track uploads using a unique encrypted key that only they can decode (called X-Trace header), which points directly to the uploader of a certain post. Furthermore, although its access is completely legal, the Usenet has its own share of illegal content such as copyright material and more.
Who can tell whether the NSA, the FBI or the CIA is behind the Usenet server you happen to illegally download a movie from? Also, many companies will ban users if they receive repeated DMCA strike notices from the same account, so it’s safe to assume there’s a way that providers can pinpoint some action directly towards you. However, if you’re not doing anything illegal, you shouldn’t worry too much about it.
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