The federal government and agencies carry out mass surveillance to monitor their citizens. The legality of such surveillance depends on the laws in the country. Such surveillance is often carried out in the name of national security to fight terrorism and prevent crime. Countries that monitor their citizens without a warrant are a part of the 14 eyes alliance. This guide will first elaborate on how this alliance was formed and will later discuss countries and their laws.
What is 5, 9 and 14 Eyes Alliance?
Many security organization works separately from their government, but they are hired by the feds, and they work for a national cause. This enables the government to make a safe exit and not be accountable for their actions. 5, 9 and 14 eyes are like such organizations; some people also refer to them as shadow governments.
5, 9, and 14 are the numbers of countries that have an intelligence-sharing alliance with each other. It is an omnipresent spying force that works for one global-surveillance conglomerate to collect mass data. These countries spy on their citizens (legally and illegally) for the sake of national security. This surveillance includes tons of data which includes everything which is unprotected or unencrypted.
How 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, 14 Eyes Formed?
In 1941 an informal agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom came into being named as “UKUSA agreement.” This agreement had only one purpose “to share intelligence.” The Anglo-American naval cooperation in the North Atlantic region strengthened this agreement as the British were keen on sharing signal intelligence with the US. American warships, in return began escorting British convoys to the three-quarter of the Atlantic using the latest tech to avoid German attack.
In 1946 after the Second World War, the agreement was formalized and then expanded to other countries (preferably allies). Canada entered the fold, and these three countries started sharing intelligence. The communication between these countries was so transparent that it was believed as if these three were one single nation.
It was not a smooth track for the trio as rivalry began to make roots; this rivalry was not on a national level but started within the agencies. Later issues were resolved as changes were made to drafts, and a final agreement was formed.
Formation of 5 Eyes
Five eyes (FVES) was a major outcome of the Cold War period. 5 eyes was an extended version of the UKUSA agreement when more allies joined the pact. In 1950 Australia and New Zealand joined Canada, UK, and the USA forming up an English-speaking alliance on intelligence sharing. This agreement aided in decrypting Soviet Russian intelligence and strengthened the USA.
This intelligence-sharing alliance grew stronger with time. Then came the digital world which opened new doors of surveillance for these agencies. For many years this agreement of intelligence-sharing was kept secret from the public. However, in 2003 things started clearing up until a renowned whistleblower “Edward Snowden” leaked how governments spy on their people.
Members of the Five Eyes include;
- United States of America
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
In 2009 United States asked France to join five eyes, and after four years Germany showed interest to join the intelligence-sharing alliance following which more countries embraced the pact which leads to the formation of 9 eyes.
Formation of 9 Eyes
After France, Denmark, Netherlands, and Norway joined the intelligence-sharing pact. After the addition of these 4 counties, intelligence-sharing of online activities got broader which eventually opened new doors of opportunities for agencies. It empowered information sharing by five eyes countries and gave them more authority on the web.
Members of the 9 eyes include;
- All countries included in 5 eyes
Formation of 14 Eyes
As national security risks increased after the famous 9/11 incident, agencies expanded their surveillance system. Since the internet was propagating faster than ever, turning the world into a global village, agencies got no other idea than to conquer the internet for keeping an eye on the public. The nine eyes countries pitched many countries about the pros intelligence-sharing brings. Though these countries never accepted it publicly backdoor diplomacy was ensuring that this club expands.
9 eyes countries successfully added five more countries to their alliance. These included;
Many believe that countries like Singapore and South Korea already have joined FVES (since they have strong ties with the US) but do not declare it publicly. These countries are called “Third-Party” as they neither deny nor accept their part in fourteen eyes.
What Do They Do?
The eyes and its intelligence agencies get a ton of daily data which is enough to fill up thick books. They use invasive monitoring tools to collect information from the web. Any data that is sent or received via any sort of line or is even stored on any device which is connected to the internet can be intercepted by these agencies.
Geospatial and on-ground human intelligence methods are also used to extract data or spy on any individual. Since these 14 countries have intelligence partnership, detailed information can be easily collected and shared. Intelligence sharing has counter-terrorism successfully and has led to many arrests. Intelligence agencies monitor internet traffic and activity via;
- Call Database
- Undersea Cable Tapping
- Web traffic monitoring
- Tracing IP Addresses
- Webcam hacking
- Eavesdropping on cell phone
- Text message gathering
The scale that these intelligence agencies collect data on is hard to comprehend. Bruce Schneier, a security expert who analyzed Snowden’s documents, said in an interview;
“Data is money; data is power. I do not know what the internet will turn out to be in coming years because of excessive governmental interventions.”
5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes Countries Jurisdiction and Surveillance
The 14 eyes surveillance has reached to its peak. It is expected that $128 billion will be invested in security and surveillance technology in 2019. China is said to have almost a quarter of the market share while the US has the most number of surveillance cameras per capita.
Though China is not part of the 14 eyes, it has its unusual restrictions. China is the most extensive internet censorship country in the world, due to administrative and legal regulations.
Using VPN is strictly prohibited and if anyone is found doing so, then the state deals with that individual according to the law they have.
United States: The Founding Member of 14 Eyes
- Are VPNs Legal in the United States? Yes
Out of a total of 325 million people, 284 million are internet users in the USA. The US spends billions of dollars on mass surveillance of their people, NSA (National Security
Agency) and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) use softwares like Carnivore Echelon and NarusInsight to analyze ad intercept immense data that traverses on the web and via phone every day.
After 9/11, the United States has tightened its surveillance policy, monitoring almost every individual using the internet (there are exceptions). Thanks for Snowden’s whistle-blowing for revealing prying eyes.
In 1993 John Gilmore was quoted by Time Magazine saying;
“The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”
Popular US-based VPN Providers:
- HotSpot Shield
- Private Internet Access
- VPN Unlimited
United Kingdom: The Co-Founding Member of 14 Eyes Surveillance
- Are VPNs Legal in the United Kingdom? Yes
The UK has a history of surveillance; back in the 19th-century people grew conscious about their privacy which led to postal espionage. However, during WWII signal intelligence increased and in 1946 GCHQ (Government Communication Headquarters) was formed. As the internet grew and the World Wide Web rose as the new king, GCHQ followed the trend and went surveilling the web. British intelligence uses Tempora to keep an eye on its citizens. United Kingdom
A recent judgment by a UK court said that bulk interceptions by federal agencies are violating the right of privacy. The ruling also stated that it is against human laws that regime gathers information from tech companies about its citizen.
Popular UK-Based VPN Providers
- Are VPNs Legal in Canada? Yes
Canadian security intelligence is accused of gathering information about travelers as they used public WiFi at the airport. The information gathered is enough to track them after they had left the airport. People of Canada and the ones who have traveled to Canada were quite concerned after this shocking revelation. Canada plays a crucial role in intelligence sharing as it is one of the members of the core FVEYS.
The CSE (Communication Security Establishment Canada) claim that does not collect any data without a warrant but on the contrary, stresses that the subsets of some collected data may include some private information of fellow citizens. The agency further adds that they have a limiting length of time that this data can be stored because it is an incursion to privacy. With Canada being part of 14 eyes it is hard to believe that the stored data is discarded and not shared with other countries.
Popular Canadian-based VPNs
Australia and New Zealand
- Are VPNs Legal in Australia and New Zealand? Yes
Australia does not place any restrictions on using a VPN, but it is an integral part of the FVEYS. Australia has its laws of privacy; it allows telephone companies to store data for two years. Moreover, there are many reported cases where Australian law enforcers were trying to access encrypted data.
In 2018 Australia was in hot waters after its parliament passed a law according to which the law enforcement agencies can demand access to encrypted digital communication. This means that tech giants like Facebook and Apple will be required to make a backdoor in their encrypted messaging platforms such as Whatsapp and iMessage. Authoritarian states like Russia and
China are already practicing it. GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau) and NZSIS (New Zealand Security Intelligence Service) are the two agencies that are responsible for monitoring the country’s intelligence and security.
Popular VPNs in Australia and New Zealand
- VPNSecure Me
- Celo VPN
- Are VPNs Legal in Denmark? Yes
Denmark’s agencies are having a strong hold over the country’s internet. Since they are the part of 9 eyes, they practice wiretapping and other technical practices with the aid of NSA. Denmark’s intelligence agencies partner-up with NSA to decrypt codes of internet communication and tap online traffic.
Furthermore, in May 2017 Danish telecom regulator announced that its decision of retention of mobile internet usage data is lawful. The regulator, in other words, said that agencies could tap internet usage of any mobile user without a warrant. This was shocking news for every Danish citizen as it made headlines in 2017.
- Are VPNs Legal in Holland? Yes
Netherland’s law often sends mixed signals when it comes to internet privacy and surveillance from intelligence. A ruling from the Dutch court restricted ISPs (Internet Service Providers) in the Netherlands. According to the court’s order ISPs were restricted not to share any data with BREIN (Bescherming Rechten Entertainment Industrie Nederland), this was seen as a victory by privacy advocates. However, after a year a court in Amsterdam allowed BREIN to demand data of BitTorrent users from ISPs.
Holland is regarded as more respectful when it comes to online privacy as compared to many European Union countries, but on the contrary Dutch need to stay vigilant about their privacy online.
Popular VPN in Netherlands
- Are VPNs Legal in Norway? Yes
Norway allegedly approved a proposal by NIS (Norwegian Intelligence Service) which allowed the country’s intelligence agencies to monitor all telephonic and online communication which takes place between Norway and other countries.
Norwegian agencies defend their position by stressing on national security and possible terrorist threat. The agencies further add that mass surveillance of cross-border communication can aid in targeting possible terrorist activity.
Popular VPN based in Norway
- Opera VPN
- Are VPNs Legal in France? Yes
France has long been suspected to be associated with “Franchelon” which is a global electronic communication surveillance program. After the famous 2015 terrorist attack in Paris, France adopted the International Electronic Communications Law. According to this law DGSE (Directorate-General for External Security) can collect, intercept and monitor any communication that is sent or received from abroad.
Popular VPN based in Italy
- Are VPNs Legal in Germany? Yes
BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) a German federal intelligence was legally allowed by a German court that it could spy on its citizens virtually. The court stated;
“Deutsche Commercial Internet Exchange (DE-CIX) will be required to assist BND for strategic communication surveillance.”
BND was formed by Americans to oppose Nazis operatives in 2007. BND has been involved in many controversies, and with online surveillance, these scandals are set to increase.
Popular VPNs based in Germany
- Avira Phantom
- Are VPNs Legal in Belgium? Yes
Belgium official site states that no public authority can interfere what their citizens
- Do in private life
- Do in their own house
- Say on the telephone
- Write in emails and letters
Furthermore, adds that there are exceptions such as;
- To prevent criminal acts and disorder
- To protect good morals and health and the right to freedom of others.
Since Belgium is a part of 14 eyes, it is unclear how it does not breach online privacy.
- Are VPNs Legal in Italy? Yes
Italy is considered as one of the worst culprits to curtail online privacy. It has passed the EU’s data retention directive into its law. Thus, it is by law that all ISPs must record data of users which includes whom they send emails to, their billing information and their IP addresses. Italy’s agencies are abided by the law to retain data without warrant all under the embalming of national security.
Popular VPN based in Italy
- Are VPNs Legal in Sweden? Yes
Swedish online privacy is under a potential threat by politicians and intrusive government agencies. Swedes should take immense care when sharing details online as Sweden is part of the 14 eyes alliance as well.
Popular Sweden based VPNs
- Are VPNs Legal in Spain? Yes
The Privacy International in 2017 claimed that Spain is a part of those 21 European countries that withhold their citizen’s internet data.
Intelligence and National Security Threats
The internet has now become a center of attention for terrorists. Since it is an easy and cheap medium, thus it has allowed terrorists to communicate their aims to the world costlessly. The recent terror of ISIS and ISIL harnessed the internet and social media on their fullest. Such well planned online propaganda helped terrorist organizations to recruit thousands of foreign fighters.
Bruce Hoffman, who is a professor specializing in counterterrorism and insurgency noticed such usage of internet patterns and said;
“Terrorists are now bypassing such traditional prints and are now taking the aid of internet with professionally edited videotapes and even their television and radio networks online.”
Cybersecurity activists grew ferocious and demanded to target such terrorists by tapping underwater internet cables. However, did it worked? Yes, to some extent, but resulted in strict surveillance from agencies worldwide.
Is Collection of Data A Threat To Individual?
Being online is part of our daily routine. Though it gives us an overwhelming amount of information on our fingertips, it also exposes a fairly large amount of data to the rest of the world. Here’s how your online privacy can be compromised
- By Web Tracking
- Using Data Retention software
- When you use Public Wifi
- Positing every information on social networks
- When every device is connected but not secured
Imagine meeting someone whom you have never met before, but that individual knows everything about you, this already sounds odd. Well, it is the case for the citizens of the 14 eyes countries as they are being monitored 24/7.
Unofficial Members of Five Eyes
Countries included in 14 eyes have announced their participation, but there are countries which are allegedly part of these eyes. These countries include;
- South Korea
Note that these countries have strong ties with the USA.
A List of Recommended VPNs
Since VPNs guarantee privacy and security on the internet. Being sure where your VPN provider resides is essential.
Following is a list of VPNs that are not notorious about being in 14 eyes jurisdiction.
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How to be Anonymous If You Are in 5, 9 and 14 Eyes Countries
Through the years, the internet has become a global spying network. The agreement on the alliance depicts that these 5 eyes, 9 eyes, and 14 eyes countries are working together to bypass national privacy laws. If you are living in a country which is a part of 14 eyes, then it is inevitable for you to use a VPN service.
A VPN will help you improve online security; in addition, it assures that no agency or ISP is monitoring your web traffic. You might think that you are not doing the illegal activity so why hide, but with so many eyes watching from around the world, you never know what they might see.