A Guide to Your Digital Privacy and Global Inspection by Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and Fourteen Eyes Alliance

by
Frederik Lipfert
Dr. Frederik Lipfert Founder, vpncheck
Updated on 13 Nov 2021

Your Digital Privacy and Global Inspection

What you do online is no one else’s business. Digital privacy is an inherent right of every internet user, but some miscreants seem hell-bent on grabbing that right from you. All these elements have robbed the world of its collective online privacy, yet most people don’t even know their names.

All of that changes right now. In this article, we’ll tell you all you need to know about the five eyes, nine eyes and the fourteen eyes – the miscreants we referred to in the previous paragraph. We’ll also discuss how they disrupt privacy and how you can stay safe from them on the internet.

Read on if you don’t want anyone watching over your shoulder as you browse your favorite content on the internet.

Structure

  • Introduction to the Five Eyes Association 
  • A Brief Intro to Nine Eyes Association
  • What is the Fourteen Eyes Association?
  • Impacts of these Associations on Digital Privacy 
  • Projects Run by these Alliances 
  • Certain Issue with these Associations 
  • Ways to Avoid Your Privacy Invasions
  • Impact of these Associations Upon the VPN Usage
  • The Top Ranking VPN Services

Introduction to the Five Eyes Association

Screenshot of Five Eyes Association

The Five Eyes Association includes the five major countries of the world, including the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

All of them work together to collect all forms of information from around the world and use it to maintain peace and safeguard their national defense. According to The Korea Herald, the US has recently approached South Korea to become the sixth member of this alliance.

Background and Foundation

This alliance started at the end of World War II when the UK and USA joined hands to collect and exchange global information under the agreement of ‘UKUSA.’ It gave way to the National Security Agency (NSA) of the US and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) of the UK. Both these agencies collaborate to this day to gather and share sensitive data. 

With time, the alliance grew, and Australia, New Zealand, and Canada also became part of it. The arrival of these three countries gave birth to the ‘Five Eyes’ Association. An agreement was inked stating that all five members would share and exchange the gathered information among them.

Intelligence Agencies of the Five Eyes

Intelligence Agencies of the Five Eyes logoApart from the US and UK – which own the world’s best and most influential security agencies, the other three countries – New Zealand, Canada, and Australia also have their own intelligence agencies.

The intelligence agency of New Zealand is named ‘Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB),’ Australia calls its intelligence agency ‘Australia Signals Directorate (ASD),’ and that of Canada is known as ‘Communications Security Establishment (CSE).

Functions of These Intelligence Agencies

It is impossible to tell much about what exactly the intelligence agencies of these nations do because all their works are top secret. They do not let the world know about their projects because they deal with loads of sensitive information.

In fact, until 1999, few knew such agencies existed, and people had no idea their data was accessible to others. Fast forward to the third decade of the 21st century, however, and everyone is aware of their presence and has at least an idea of what they do.

These intelligence agencies snoop on other states. It is done so that they know if any nation is a threat to them or if there are any threats to global peace. During the Cold war, this alliance successfully decrypted Soviet intelligence on various occasions.

Moreover, according to the agreement, every member of the Five Eyes alliance is assigned a specific area of the world for surveillance. For instance, the UK is tasked with inspecting and collecting information from the Middle East and Europe.

The US, meanwhile, is assigned the whole African continent, the Middle East, China, and Russia. Australia keeps an eye on South and East Asia. Canada looks over Russia and Latin America, while the area of the Western Pacific falls under the surveillance of New Zealand.

A Brief Intro to The Nine Eyes Association

Screenshot of the Nine Eyes AssociationWith the addition of these countries, the Five Eyes alliance expanded to Nine Eyes Association:

  • France
  • Netherlands
  • Denmark
  • Norway

While they are all part of the same group, the states belonging to the Nine Eyes Association do not get that same access to all the information as their Five Eyes counterparts. Here’s why that is the case.

In the past few decades, there have been incidents where the members of the Nine Eyes Association were caught snooping on each other. Even now, the likes of America and France carry out attempts to spy on the other’s intelligence reports.

What is The Fourteen Eyes Surveillance Alliance?

Screenshot of the Fourteen Eyes Surveillance AllianceThe addition of five more states gave birth to the ‘Fourteen Eyes Surveillance Alliance.’ The addition of these states causes further secrecy of intelligence rather than sharing it amongst the whole alliance. Every nation within the association looks for its best interest while exchanging information.

Furthermore, the fourteen eyes alliance has its official agency called ‘The SIGINT Seniors of Europe (SSEUR).’ Here are the five countries whose addition to the Nine Eyes Association led to the formation of the Fourteen Eyes Association: 

  • Italy
  • Sweden
  • Germany
  • Belgium
  • Spain

The Impact of 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes on Digital Privacy

Digital Privacy

Although there is no information about how much of your privacy is invaded by the government, knowing that your information is not secure is still shocking. The general public, of course, believes that the government cannot do them any harm, and that the intelligence is snooping on their online activities to prevent immoral goings-on. Therefore, it is the least of people’s worries that they are being spied on. 

On its own, the internet itself is a dangerous platform. Adding the government’s security agencies’ spying causes even more concern and fright in the people aware of its consequences.

Yes, most people think their information is not that important. Some consider it a meaningful scheme. Many others say it is acceptable as long as they do anything wrong or illegal – the government can all but check their data and find nothing. 

A very few people are aware of how unethical (and potentially dangerous) the invasion of an individual’s privacy is.

Apart from government agencies, various digital businesses and companies know more about you than your close friends. It is because they have access to your personal information, and you are completely ok with that.

Take, for example, Facebook. It knows everything about you, including your appearance, location, likes and dislikes, your birthday, and friend circles. Shopping sites like Amazon are also aware of your preferences and interests. It uses it to provide user-specific ads.

This knowledge, however, about the government having access to our private conversations puts up a critical thought. If the government can intrude on our privacy, then what law is there that could help safeguard our privacy?

Some Projects run by these Alliances

Here are few of the publicly known projects currently being run by these alliances:

TEMPORA

It is a strategic program of the Five Eyes Alliance that monitors everything on the internet. It is carried out under the supervision of the GCHQ of The UK. Since its main focus is surveillance over the internet, it spies on all publically available data.

TEMPORA makes sure to detect all the information, even if it is hidden behind certain keywords. The primary purpose of all of this is quite clear: to inspect the entire communication system and collect every piece of information on the internet.

ECHELON

ECHELON is an NSA-operated program that spies on electronic and satellite communications. There is no limit to what this program can break in, collect, and use for whatever purpose. It can look into any type of communication, including text messages, calls and emails.

No keywords can remain secret under its surveillance. Every double-meaning phrase is double-checked for any information about any kind of threat to disrupt peace.

XKEYSCORE

Another NSA-operated program, XKEYSCORE involves all the other states that form the Fourteen Eyes alliance. The main objective of this program is to snoop on every single person.

Like the programs mentioned above, XKEYSCORE’s primary focus is to detect any threats to governments forming the Fourteen Eyes alliance.  

The information about all these projects was top secret until Edward Snowden came forward and exposed the NSA and Fourteen Eyes alliance. He did it because he believed that what initially started as a tool to protect people, maintain peace, and defend the world against threats, has gone on to mutate into a threat to people’s privacy.

The Edward Snowden Incident

Image showing The Edward Snowden IncidentEdward Snowden, a former employee of the NSA, left the association and his home country (USA) and leaked some prime information back in 2013. He resides in Russia for now because he is facing espionage charges back home.

Snowden left the NSA and told the world about how, in the name of protection, the NSA – along with Five Eyes – invades and collects personal data of Americans and citizens of countless other nations.  

He gave the public an idea about the true extent of what the Five Eyes that we believe is protecting us are doing. Snowden told the world that the NSA collects your browsing history, IP addresses, text messages, emails, call records, etc. Worse, the NSA was sharing such data with other countries, too.

At first, hackers were considered the biggest threat to digital privacy. However, after Snowden’s revelations, it is the government’s surveillance that seems more dangerous. Thanks to him, the population is reconsidering their belief in the government.

Issues with 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes Association

At first, no one had any doubt that government agencies work to protect the public. However, after the Edward Snowden matter, everyone is asking the same question: is my government snooping on me?

The answer to this question matters. Mainly because the government is answerable to no one. But also because, even if they are watching over our shoulder, there’s no way using which we can catch our government red-handed.

Another genuine concern is that of inequity. The major states of the ‘five eyes alliance’ are all English, and they are under the authority of white folk. None of the other surveillance agencies can compete with the alliance of ‘five eyes.’

This shows how they possess clear but unjust supremacy over all the other nations in terms of power over global information. It causes tension regarding the sensitive information of each country that can fall into the hands of the ‘Five Eyes Alliance’ anytime and anywhere.

Ways to Avoid Privacy Invasion

Picture showing how to protect your data

Consider global surveillance a threat

Most people have this mindset that there is nothing wrong with the government monitoring their digital activities. This mindset is misguided. Because you never know when and how your information might get leaked. Therefore, it is in your best interest to consider digital surveillance by government agencies a threat to your privacy.

Restrict the use of digital gadgets

The more gadgets you use, the more access you give the intelligence agencies over your personal information. It is no secret that today, every smart device like television, home security system, fitness watch, and even fridge connects to a smartphone, and that’s how the Five Eyes nations can intrude on your privacy and collect your data. So, limit your use of smart gadgets and protect digital privacy.

Go for using a VPN to ensure the safety of your privacy

Your IP address and internet history are the most common sources of leaking your information. To avoid it, use a VPN connection. It conceals your IP address, removes any traces of your presence on the internet, and hides all your online activities, ensuring the safety of all of your information. 

If you start using a VPN, no one will ever know the sites you visit, the content you browse, and the files you download. Having said that, selecting a trustworthy VPN is easier said than done. You must go through the available options and find a VPN service outside the 14 Eyes.

Next, make sure to learn the rules and regulations of VPN service usage in your country. Make sure the VPN service you choose gives reliable customer service. Finally, do not ever go for free VPN services; they won’t protect your privacy. Select premium service instead.

Impact of 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes Agreement on the Use of VPN

If any nation out of the 14 eyes inspects your data and collects it, no one knows what they will do with it. There is no boundary they cannot cross to reach information. They can exchange the data amongst them even if it’s confidential.

Their main objective is to fetch and inspect information from every source. Even if you live out of these fourteen states, your contact with anyone residing in these states will lead to an invasion of your conversations and data. 

All of this means that you neither get the protection nor the security that your VPN service is supposed to provide you if the VPN service you’re using is associated with any member of Five, Nine or Fourteen Eyes Alliances. 

How to Choose a VPN Service Provider?

Here’s how you can choose a safe, reliable and effective VPN service:

Your Whereabouts

Even if you don’t live in any of the 14 Eyes countries, you must know your nation’s privacy laws allow you to use VPN. However, if you reside in one of the Five Eyes Countries, you need to be even more careful. These states are the strictest when it comes to digital inspection.

The Location of Your VPN Company

The next step while choosing your VPN service is to know the registration location of your VPN Company. It is best if the company is based out of the 14 Eyes countries. Because these states strictly keep eyes on people’s data, even if that means forcing the VPN companies to hand over the information of their users.

The Site of the VPN server

Along with VPN companies, the VPN servers should also preferably be situated out of the 14 Eyes countries. That’s because the agencies can force the VPN providers to give up information of their users if their servers are located in these countries. So, select a server that’s based in a different country.

Top Ranking VPN Services Out of the 14 Eyes Countries

  • ExpressVPN (Our Recommendation)
  • NordVPN
  • SurfShark
  • CyberGhost

ExpressVPN – The Best Overall VPN Service Provider

ExpressVPN Logo

There are various reasons why ExpressVPN is the best VPN overall and one of the best VPNs for streaming. The first of them is that it is situated in the British Virgin Islands – as far away as possible from the Fourteen Eyes alliance. This means you can count on ExpressVPN not to divulge your data to the authorities.

Next, it offers super-fast speed, limitless bandwidth and zero streaming limitations. ExpressVPN also provides you with high security and privacy – the main purpose of having a VPN service. This particular VPN service has servers present in a total of 94 countries. It accepts payments in Bitcoin, has the (kill switch feature, and lets you download torrent links, too.

Thanks to its no-log policy, ExpressVPN ensures that no records of your IP address and browsing history are kept on its databases, effectively ensuring that you stream and browse as a ghost. The customer service of ExpressVPN is also excellent. There are several platforms through which contact with the customer is maintained, including email and live chat.

ExpressVPN offers you monthly as well as annual subscription packages. You also get a 30-day money back guarantee. However, the fact that it doesn’t offer a free trial might put off some potential subscribers.

How to Install ExpressVPN?

Follow these steps to install ExpressVPN:

Step 1: Sign up

Here’s how you can sign up for ExpressVPN:

  1. Visit the ExpressVPN website
  2. Click (or tap) on the ‘Get Started’ button.
  3. Choose your favorite plan: monthly, bi-annual, or 15-month subscription.
  4. Enter your email address
  5. Select your preferred payment method
  6. Set up your password
  7. Download and install the ExpressVPN app
  8. Enter the activation code sent to your email address

Step 2: Sign in

Choose the Sign in option on your screen. Next, put your email address and password in order to create an account, if not created yet. A notification will pop up in front of you about ExpressVPN monitoring your browsing and streaming. If you’re fine with this, select ‘Ok’ and go on. Finally, click the Connect option.

Now comes the time to choose one out of the 194 available servers. Choose one that is closest to your physical location. This will ensure that you get the best browsing speed.

NordVPN

NordVPN’s Logo Post-2019NordVPN is also one of the fastest VPN services out there. It offers impressive features like an integrated kill switch that will disconnect your device’s connection from the internet the moment its VPN connection is lost, ensuring that your privacy remains intact.

A no-logs policy means any information you enter or browse while using VPN won’t be collected. Other exciting features include multi-tunnelling (which keeps your traffic separate from other forms of traffic on the internet), streaming support, and DNS leak protection. 

NordVPN has more than 5000 servers across 58 states. Like ExpressVPN, it also has no free trial available. Unlike it, however, it’s pretty expensive without the added features to justify its higher asking price. That’s the main reason why various budget-minded users prefer ExpressVPN over NordVPN.

SurfShark

SurfShark offers fast, stable and reliable service. It gives you the option to use unlimited devices at once with ease, follows no logs policy strictly, and lets you activate the Camouflage mode – it ensures that no one, including your internet provider, knows about you using a VPN.

SurfShark has over 1000 servers in 61 countries. It is also based in the British Virgin Islands like ExpressVPN, which means out of the reach of mass surveillance. That is what makes it one of the best options for you.

CyberGhost

CyberGhost is located in Romania and has over 6000 servers across 89 countries. This means it offers more servers than ExpressVPN, our first choice. On top of that, CyberGhost lets you connect seven devices simultaneously, and its premium-version comes with no ads, too.

Why, then CyberGhost isn’t our first choice? Mainly because it’s very expensive. Also, a third party is yet to audit this VPN and, unlike most of the VPN providers out there, its privacy policy has the potential to confuse you.

Final Words

There is no one doubting the ability of the 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes associations/alliances to snoop on your digital life. All of them have highly-skilled personnel as well as cutting-edge technology at their disposal.

Provided the last sentence made you uneasy, it’s time you invest in a VPN service. ExpressVPN gets our nod because of its water-tight privacy policy, the amazing features that it offers and the fact that it offers servers all across the world.