To an average person, the term ‘Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and Fourteen Eyes’ sound like a newspaper headline. A headline which informs citizens of the aliens invading from outer space.
However, as much as we want to, we can’t live in a make-believe sci-fi world. The reality of what Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and Fourteen Eyes imply couldn’t diverge more from the land of dreams and cookie monsters.
Whenever a conversation is happening around topics of cyber-security, the terms mentioned above have a place of their own, primarily while referring to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).
Simply put, Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and Fourteen Eyes are global surveillance alliances. It consists of many countries working together to collect and share data of users around the world.
To further aid you in your quest to understand ‘Five Eyes,’ ‘Nine Eyes,’ and ‘Fourteen Eyes,’ we’ve compiled a practical guide that has all the information you’ll need!
What is ‘Five Eyes’?
‘Five Eyes’ alliance includes the countries Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States.
To better understand the significance of this alliance, let’s have a look at the remarkable and sometimes sketchy history of Five Eyes.
The Five Eyes surveillance alliance first emerged during the cold war era in the aftermath of an intelligence contract between the UK and the USA. The agreement is known as the UKUSA Agreement of 1946.
This agreement finalized an alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom. It enabled both countries to share foreign intelligence for their mutual benefit.
During the late 1950s, Canada, New Zealand and Australia had also been integrated into the alliance.
The partnership has stood the test of time. It has continued throughout the Cold War (1947-1991) and remains strong to this day, branching out to include the surveillance of online activity as well.
Since many years, the existence was of such an alliance was considered to be nothing more than a conspiracy theory. However, all of this changed in 2003, where the presence of Five Eyes was revealed to the public.
Whatever doubts lingered in the air regarding the revelation made in 2003, was cleared by Edward Snowden about ten years later, in 2013. It was the time when he leaked documents that he gained access to while working as an NSA contractor.
The documents took everybody concerned with cyber-security and privacy by storm. They revealed the government’s involvement in spying on citizens’ online activity and exposed the intricacies of global surveillance, which were much more complex than previously assumed.
The data leaked by Snowden also brought into light the existence of two other international alliances, known as the Nine Eyes and Fourteen Eyes, into whose details we’ll delve into further on into the article.
The core countries comprising of Five Eyes utilize intelligence agencies of each country, which then work together, to collect and store information regarding your online activities.
Among the countries included in the Five Eyes, the UK and US are notorious for their poor implementation of online privacy, with the passage of data retention laws such as Investigatory Powers Act (2016) in the UK and the PRISM program (2006-2007) in the US.
Perhaps the power that could prove to have the most dreadful consequences is the authority that these countries have over companies. Members of the Five Eyes alliance can force companies to hand over data, sometimes, without even a warrant.
What is meant by ‘Nine Eyes’ and ‘Fourteen Eyes’?
As mentioned earlier, the revelations made by Edward Snowden revealed the existence of two more global alliances, which included the core countries in the Five Eyes alliance.
The Nine Eyes is an extension of the Five Eyes alliance and performs the same function of widespread global espionage, with the integration of the following countries:
The Fourteen Eyes surveillance alliance includes members of the Nine Eyes alliance along with the following countries:
The official name of this alliance is often referred to as SIGINT Seniors Europe or SSEUR.
Additional third-party surveillance partners:
It is worth mentioning that along with the countries mentioned above, some countries that are not officially in the alliance, but partner with the group for the exchange of intelligence include:
How are these alliances affecting users?
The most obvious question that you might be harboring after taking in all the information mentioned above is probably concerning the impact that this intelligence sharing has on you- the typical internet user, especially those who use a VPN.
Well, as a general rule of thumb, it might help you a lot if you assume that if the government of any one of the nations from the fourteen mentioned above, your sensitive data could then be shared between all fourteen of these countries.
To prevent your information from being scrutinized, you need to keep the following things in mind:
- Knowledge is the greatest asset that you have- try to be aware of all the laws and regulations surrounding online privacy and the use of VPNs in your country.
- Try to avoid using VPNs associated with any of the countries in the Fourteen Eyes alliance, since the governments of these countries have the authority to force your data out of the VPN provider.
- As an extra measure of security, try being in the know-how of the surveillance laws of the country in which your server is located.
- Try to use a VPN with a strict ‘No-log’ policy, since as recently demonstrated by ExpressVPN; it provides no identifying information on any user.
- Know which countries permit the use of VPN and which don’t so that you have a thorough understanding of how to protect your sensitive data. Some countries which have banned the use of VPNs include China, Iran, and Belarus.
Best VPNs to use which are located outside Fourteen Eyes Countries:
For the security of your data, try using a VPN that operates outside the jurisdiction of the Fourteen Eyes alliance.
Some highly efficient options available are as follows:
Among the arsenal of choices available, NordVPN is definitely in a league of its own. Based in Panama, well outside the jurisdictions of the Fourteen Eyes alliance, it secures your data from any global surveillance.
VyprVPN puts internet privacy above everything else and is based in Switzerland, far away from the dreaded alliance.
CyberGhost operates in Romania, which has privacy-friendly laws that help users browse through the internet safely.
As mentioned above, ExpressVPN takes online security very seriously. Based in the British Virgin Islands, has proved that it does not store any data, all thanks to its strict ‘No-Log’ policy.
Based in the Seychelles Islands, Trust. Zone provides secure browsing at a breakneck speed, which serves as an added benefit.
Now that you know all about the global surveillance alliance is known as ‘Fourteen Eyes,’ you need to be extremely vigilant while browsing through the internet.
Since online privacy is emerging as a significant concern, as responsible users of technology, it is our responsibility to stay safe and inform others of the plights facing the web.